Fisher — and Black — In at Lifetime

More original dramas and reality shows could be on tap for Lifetime Television under new head programmer Barbara Fisher, the former Universal Studios executive.

She replaces former Lifetime executive vice president of entertainment Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff, who left earlier this year to become UPN Entertainment's president.

Lifetime is shoring up its top executive ranks. Lifetime Entertainment Services CEO Carole Black — who announced Fisher's hiring — has also agreed to a new three-year deal, though she has yet to formally sign the contract, sources said.

Black is expected to ink the deal before the network's June 20 board meeting, the spokeswoman said.

Black's contract with Lifetime expired in March. Since then, she's surfaced as a potential candidate for several high-profile TV positions, including president of ABC Television, from which Steve Bornstein resigned earlier this month.


Fisher, who will be based in Los Angeles, will oversee all scheduling, programming and production for Lifetime, the No. 1 primetime cable network in 2001 and winner of the basic-cable household ratings race for 18 of 20 weeks so far this year.

She also will be responsible for the programmer's digital services, Lifetime Movie Network and Lifetime Real Women.

At Universal, Fisher was responsible for launching such primetime sitcoms as Just Shoot Me
and The Steve Harvey Show.

"I am thrilled that Barbara is joining the Lifetime family," Black said in a statement. "I am confident that with Barbara's talent, vision and leadership skills, all three Lifetime networks will continue to thrive."

Fisher said she's not looking to do much tinkering in the near term.

"I'd be foolish to make any major changes," she said. "I know how hard it is to make successful original series, and I think Lifetime has done an outstanding job with its drama and reality programming."

Though she's enjoyed success in developing sitcoms for broadcast networks, Fisher won't aggressively pursue that programming genre for Lifetime — although she wouldn't rule out a future comedy pilot for the network.

She also said Lifetime isn't planning to repurpose any broadcast fare in the near future. Lifetime had aired episodes of the now-cancelled dramatic series Once and Again, days after the installments debuted on ABC. The ratings the series generated for Lifetime were respectable, but not great.

"At this point, [repurposing] doesn't seem to apply to Lifetime," Fisher said.

Fisher said Lifetime would continue to develop drama series and movies, the staples of its original-programming lineup. And she mentioned a desire to build on reality programming shows, such as Intimate Portrait.
"Reality is something that I want to make a priority," she said.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.