There is a real dismissiveness around what women like, what they think about, what they talk about and how they talk about it,” said Lisa Hamilton Daly, who, as executive VP of programming at Crown Media Family Networks, strives to find the type of content that connects with a mass female audience.
“Women of a certain age, who like a certain thing and who clearly want to be engaged emotionally in their programming are who we target,” she said. “So, to dismiss something simply as a Hallmark or a Lifetime movie — sentimental, dramatic, emotional and not rational, for example — only magnifies my desire to prove the value and the importance of this format.”
Daly came to Crown Media after a successful three-year stint at Netflix, where she was brought in to develop “Hallmark-type” programs, including the hit drama Virgin River. Daly’s role at Crown Media Family Networks (Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Hallmark Drama and the Hallmark Movies Now subscription VOD service) is to build on programming strategy and options, attract new audiences across the various platforms and diversify the talent pool, all while staying true to the family-themed, women-centric brand.
“Male critics tend to not like emotionality or melodrama,” she said. “But my feeling is a massive hit show like Game of Thrones is really just a big soap opera. There is a long critical tradition in our community that sort of denigrates emotionality, where the assumption is you are thinking with your emotions and with your feelings, and those things are considered to be less valuable. But my taste is very wide-ranging, and while I might have a ‘fancy’ degree and I watch a lot of ‘fancy’ television, I also have a real sense for what can hit you emotionally.”
A top priority for Daly is to make Hallmark Channel’s storytelling and casting more diverse, she said. “We want to make sure we are telling everyone’s stories — the friendship, the love and the happy endings — all while being reflective of the world we live in.”
After graduate school and while working part-time at a library, Daly took internships for a few film companies, an early entry into the media field. Her first job in the business was at superagent Michael Ovitz’s company, Artist Management Group, in the book division.
“I initially started out wanting to be a writer, and I went to journalism school, Northwestern, for a couple of years,” Daly noted. “Then I realized maybe I did not want to major in journalism.” She eventually earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English and American literature and language from Harvard University, in addition to a B.A. in English literature from UCLA.
After Artist Management Group came a film- and television-focused publishing role at HarperCollins, which led to a five-year stint at DreamWorks, first in New York and then in Los Angeles. There she worked directly with Steven Spielberg, among others, to navigate the vision for future projects and content.
Daly arrived at A+E Networks, Lifetime specifically, as VP of programming in 2011. In 2018, she segued to Netflix, developing and producing female-driven dramas like Sweet Magnolias, Firefly Lane and the aformentioned Virgin River, shows with multiple seasons that continue to evolve.
Seeking Positive Connections
“We are in a moment of time culturally where there are so many awful things going on in the world that I think people want to find refuge and calm, they want a happy ending, and they want to be connected emotionally in a positive way,” Daly said. “At the core of it, you are really dealing with feelings rather than some intellectual response to something. And I think one of the strengths at Netflix, which I remain true to in how I do my job today, is understanding that not every program has to be super-highbrow.
“For me, the most exciting part of whatever I do is seeing that people are watching and enjoying our programming,” she added. “Being chosen as a Wonder Woman this year only validates my goal of making culture and connecting with the audience. Big ratings and big numbers make me happy, of course. But it really is more about actually experiencing the response from the audience.” ▪️
The smarter way to stay on top of the multichannel video marketplace. Sign up below.
Marc Berman is editor-in-chief for media-centric The Programming Insider (programminginsider.com), which pioneered the email newsletter format at its inception in 1999. Marc has written for a wide range of publications including Broadcasting + Cable, Next TV, Forbes, Newspro, Campaign US, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Known as “Mr. Television” at Mediaweek (now Adweek), Marc has appeared on camera on Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Inside Edition and CNN and MSNBC, among other series and outlets. He is a member of The Television Critics Association and The Broadcast Journalists Television Association. And Marc put his TV historian hat on as author of desk calendar Today in TV History.