Lifetime Names Lopez Movie Chief

Lifetime Television named former ICM agent Tanya Lopez to head its original-movies division.

She will oversee original-movie development and execution for Lifetime and sister channel Lifetime Movie Network, reporting to entertainment president Susanne Daniels. She replaces Libby Beers, who left during the summer.

Lopez, now senior vice president of original movies and based in Los Angeles, worked from 1987-2006 at ICM as a TV-packaging agent for broadcast and cable. She also helped to develop series including American Family and Life with Bonnie. She started in entertainment as an agent at William Morris and was VP of drama series from 1995-96.

At its upfront presentation to advertisers in April, Lifetime said it was planning to premiere more than 50 new films this year, including one per month on LMN. Titles in development at the time included House of Hilton, based on the Jerry Oppenheimer book about the hotelier clan, and Victoria Woodhull, the life story of the first woman to run for president.

At a time when the broadcast networks have largely abandoned the format, TV movies play a key role in Lifetime's programming diet, reliably delivering the network proper its highest ratings each year.

To illustrate: The women's network had a successful summer this year with its original series like Army Wives, but even so, it was down 10% in primetime from the same period last year, to 1.5 million total viewers. That's because last summer, it broke records with original movie The Fantasia Barrino Story, which premiered to a huge 6.6 million viewers. LMN was up 24% in primetime during third quarter to an average 517,000 viewers.

Lifetime also said Thursday that it appointed Nancy Bennett as VP of the original-movie division. She joined the company in May from Mattel Entertainment, where she oversaw development and production of the American Girl movies. Before that, she served stints as VP of production for movies and miniseries at ABC and director of development for Disney Telefilms.