Lifetime Offers $4 Movies on iTunes

Lifetime Television original-movie fans who might have missed the biopic about winner of American Idol's third season can now download it and other titles to their iPods as part of a deal between the women's-targeted channel and Apple Computer.

The distaff-aimed service thus becomes the first cable or broadcast network to offer a wide selection of original telepics, which will retail at $3.99 a pop. Among the titles on offer: the aforementioned The Fantasia Barrino Story: Life Is Not a Fairy Tale; For One Night; Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy; and A Girl Like Mine: The Gwen Araujo Story.

Future movies such as Fat Like Me, scheduled to premiere on the Lifetime cable channel Jan. 8, will be added to the iTunes menu after their linear-TV debut, according to the network.

“It's an opportunity for us to deliver meaningful content at an attractive price to consumers,” said Dan Suratt, executive vice president of digital media and business development for the 92 million-subscriber network. “Some of those movies were the top-rated movies on cable in 2006, from Fantasia to The Araujo Story to Lipstick.”

Several of Lifetime's original series — Cheerleader Nation, Off The Leash, Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead and the recently cancelled LoveSpring International — are available on iTunes for $1.99 per episode.

“You really can't exist without being on iTunes these days; it's such a powerful platform to reach your consumers, as well as new consumers,” Suratt said. “We fully believe in this platform and we think it will be a great opportunity for us to get our content to the end user.”

Previously, The Walt Disney Co., which has a 50% stake in Lifetime, had offered some theatricals on iTunes for between $12 and $18 per title. Disney Channel's smash telefilm, High School Musical, sold for $9.99.

While Suratt would not provide iTunes revenue projections, he said the Lifetime series and movies will appeal to a female audience that's becoming more in tune with the platform.

“The idea that our audience, women 35 to 59, is an audience that doesn't understand iTunes is a complete falsity,” he said. “The women that use iTunes are more and more coming from that same age group, so it's really an opportunity for us to put our programming back in front of them.”

Suratt said the iTunes deal is the first of several alternative distribution platform moves planned for 2007. The network could begin streaming content from its original series on its Web site (lifetimetv.com) in April as part of a site relaunch.

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.