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Dubuc Revels In Role Of A Lifetime

5/03/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

A&E Television Networks veteran Nancy
Dubuc has turned History
into a top 10-rated
network, but industry observers
say she now has
a major challenge in rebuilding
the female-targeted
Lifetime brand.

Dubuc last week added
the Lifetime president and
general manager title to
her duties as president and
general manager of History
and will focus on restoring
the network’s brand to
its former prominence. In
the early 2000s, Lifetime
was the most-watched basic-
cable network in the
country.

Dubuc, who replaces former Lifetime chief Andrea Wong,
will have to stem the women-targeted network’s double-digit
ratings declines suff ered over the past year while fighting
off stiff competition from such rivals as as Oxygen, WE and
Style. Lifetime has suffered primetime viewer losses since
2005 and finished 2009 with 1.1 million viewers, 28% below
2008’s 1.4 million viewers. That’s a far cry from 2002, when
Lifetime was the most-watched network in all of cable, averaging
a robust 2.2 million viewers.

The network in 2009 also suffered across-the-board
declines in key female demographics, including 18-to-
49-year-olds (389,000, compared to 472,000 in 2008) and
18-to-54-year-olds (403,000, versus 423,000).

To change the downward ratings momentum, Dubuc
will need to create signature original programming to
complement hit original series such as Army Wives and
Drop Dead Divas, as well as reality series such as Project
Runway
.

“I would think is what she would be looking at trying to do is revitalize the Lifetime
brand by not looking in the box
but looking outside the box and
finding programming that’s distinctive,
but infused with a little
estrogen,” said Bill Carroll, vice
president and director of programming
for Katz Television
Media Group.

Carroll added that Lifetime is
not only battling female-branded
networks such as Oxygen, WE
and Style, but also more mainstream
networks that appeal to
women, such as Bravo, TLC and
ABC Family. In 2011, the network
will face another formidable
foe when OWN: The Oprah
Winfrey Network launches.

“When Lifetime started, they
were pretty much the network
for women, and now there are
networks for women, and that’s
the challenge [Dubuc] is facing,”
Carroll said.

Dubuc told Multichannel
News
that the Lifetime brand
is a strong as ever and she will
work toward bringing more engaging
program to the network
to boost ratings.

“Lifetime was the No. 1
brand in cable a few years ago
— so the potential is there to do
great things,” she said. “Right
now, Lifetime is still ahead of
the pack by a wide margin and
I expect that to continue. We
will be focused on staying very
competitive.”

Despite the audience losses,
Lifetime still draws more total
viewers than any of its femaletinged
competitors. Collins
Stewart media analyst Tom Eagan
says that established brands
such as Lifetime can remain
valuable to advertisers looking
to reach a targeted viewer despite
a ratings drought.

“Ratings are important, but
so is the value of the brand, and
Lifetime has a valuable brand,”
Eagan said.

Dubuc has a proven record
in building and expanding
niche brands. She has transformed
what was once The
History Channel from a documentary-
heavy, male dominated
destination to a more
general-entertainment channel
featuring history-related, reality-
driven series. During Dubuc’s
time atop the network, the service
launched its 10 best-rated
shows in its history, including
Ice Road Truckers, Pawn Stars,
The Universe, Ax Men, Life After
People
and How The Earth Was
Made
.

The network’s recent special
America: The Story of Us
premiered before a record 5.7
million viewers on April 25.
Overall, History’s branding
shift under Dubuc has netted
the network its best first-quarter
performance ever, averaging
1.5 million viewers and
placing the network among the
top 10 most-watched basic services.

Dubuc said she expects to
make the Lifetime brand “more
contemporary and relevant to a
wider audience,” although she
would not reveal details.

A&E Television Networks
president and CEO Abbe Raven
said in a recent interview with
Multichannel News that she’s
confident Lifetime can return
to its past ratings success.

“I absolutely am confident
that we will, with an infusion
of original programming and
great cross-promotion, be able
to reverse any kind of [ratings]
trend,” she said. “Right now,
we’re flat, but that will change
and I am absolutely confident
that you will see that evolution
of Lifetime.”

Read a Q&A with Dubuc here.

September