By this summer, Lifetime Entertainment Services (a 50/50 joint venture between the Hearst Corporation and Disney) will add another channel to its collective – Lifetime Real Women. The idea for the new U.S. network grew out of the popularity of reality programming on the company’s main cable outlet, Lifetime (Lifetime Movie Network is the other channel). Rick Haskins, executive VP of Lifetime brands, explains: ‘If you look at our ratings, reality programming is second only to our movies and some of our most popular movies are based on true life experiences, so I think [Real Women] fits hand in glove with what the Lifetime brand is.’
Lifetime has agreed to commit US$700 million to programming on the three channels over the next two years, which is a budget increase of 50% over the previous two seasons. Haskins says its too early to say what portion of the budget will go directly to Real Women, as the development slate has not yet been confirmed.
Lifetime Real Women will be devoted to ‘reality-based programming’, Haskins says, meaning non-fiction specials and series as well as movies based on true stories. The new 24-hour network will share programming with Lifetime, including staple biography series Intimate Portraits and new series Women Docs, about the lives and experiences of female doctors. Notes Haskins, ‘It’s very similar to the way a lot of new networks start off, and you are going to see a lot of sharing. We will slowly have it develop its own personality, though it will still feel like it’s within the Lifetime brand.’
Though no original programming is yet on the books for Real Women, Haskins is quick to say that this channel’s version of reality programming will differ from those shows currently dominating the airwaves. ‘I don’t think you’re going to be seeing Boot Camp and I don’t think anyone is going to be eating bats on our network. If we do do it [hybrid reality gameshows], it will be from a women’s perspective and it will definitely have the Lifetime stamp on it.’
Lifetime Real Women will be available for both analog and digital distribution, though Haskins concedes that the digital tier appears more promising. At press time, however, no carriage had been confirmed.