BREAKING NEWS! FRIDAY PM: Back when A&E Television Networks in August acquired Lifetime Entertainment Services, I heard scuttlebutt even then that Andrea Wong would by replaced by Nancy Dubuc, the President of History (aka the History Channel). “She’s not set, but odds are they’re going to her,” one source tells me. “It’s assumed she’ll get the job.” In 3 years, Dubuc has made the “Hitler Channel” contemporary and even cool with such unscripted fare as Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men and Pawn Stars and the high-brow The People Speak. Before that, she did the same thing as head of programming at sister network A&E with Dog The Bounty Hunter and Growing Up Gotti. Most importantly, History had its best ratings ever in 2009, and made it into the top 10 basic cable channels in the key 25-to-54 advertising demo for the first time.
As a result, Dubuc is now a highly sought-after rising star who’s been approached for most big primetime, cable, and broadcast gigs over the past 18 months — from Discovery networks, to NBC Universal, to Viacom networks, I’ve learned. “She’s a real programming savant in this space,” a source gushed to me. “Her reputation as a stellar marketer and developer is unrivalled. But I hear she’s also a total team player.” Good thing she also has a reputation as patient because this is going to take some time because A&E Television Networks is run by Disney/ABC and Hearst and NBC Universal. That means the likes of Anne Sweeney, Jeff Gaspin, Scott Sassa all have to agree on what contract exactly to offer her. (That’s like herding cats!)
FRIDAY 4:30 PM UPDATE: Andrea Wong’s contract at Lifetime had only a few more weeks to run. A Disney source tells me that she’s not headed to the Mouse House or ABC at this time. Wong, meanwhile, was stung by her treatment today by A&E Television Networks bosses yet also insisting she wasn’t canned. She sent around the following email to her staff which A&E Networks failed to forward to journalists despite her request: it claims that under her 2-year tenure, Lifetime had record highs in revenue and profits, and launched the most successful drama in Lifetime history, Army Wives, among other achievements:
To the Team at Lifetime:
As with all acquisitions and mergers, change is inevitable. And certainly that has been the case for us over the last several months.
Now that my role in the acquisition of Lifetime by AETN is concluded, and the integration of the organizations including a more streamlined management structure is nearly complete, I believe that it is the right time for me to step down as President & CEO. It is my plan to move on in the coming weeks after assisting in any way I can with the transition.
It has been a true honor to lead Lifetime. And I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the kindness you have all shown to me, for your hard work and dedication to Lifetime, and for the many achievements we can all be proud of over the past three years.
Our Sales and Distribution teams led us to record highs in revenue and all of you drove us to record profits.
Our Programming team launched the most successful drama in our history, Army Wives, and one of the top rated and most critically acclaimed dramas of 2009, Drop Dead Diva. In addition, our movie department has evolved our slate and attracted the highest level of talent with films like Coco Chanel, Living Proof, Prayers for Bobby, and Georgia O’Keeffe — resulting in a record number of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. And to top it off, a couple of weeks ago, the team launched our fourth highest rated movie in Lifetime’s 26-year history, The Pregnancy Pact.
All of this could not have happened without our amazing Marketing and Communications teams. Marketing has brilliantly promoted our programming and brand and brought a new level of energy and excitement to Lifetime Networks. And the Communications team has worked tirelessly and effectively to raise the awareness of our programming, our accomplishments and our brand.
The Lifetime Digital team, through organic growth as well as the strategic acquisitions of RoiWorld and MothersClick, has dramatically grown our digital presence and our sites and properties are more popular and robust than ever.
One of the things I have loved most about being at Lifetime is the collaboration that exists among us. Never was that more evident than for our launch of Project Runway. Due to your teamwork and passion, the premiere was the highest rated and most watched season premiere in the series’ history and the series has increased our time period performance by triple digit percentages.
The very profitable Lifetime Movie Network made incredible strides due to your creativity and hard work. The network grew from 59 million to 75 million subs and continues to expand. In addition, we premiered the three highest rated films in LMN’s history — Natalie Holloway, The Capture of the Green River Killer, and Little Girl Lost.
On top of all of this, Lifetime has continued its strong legacy of advocacy on behalf of women through such impactful campaigns as Every Woman Counts, Remarkable Women and our award-winning breast cancer awareness and heart health initiatives.
You have much to be proud of!
As part of AETN, and the powerful global brands that are now united, Abbe’s leadership will no doubt only propel Lifetime to greater heights.
I leave with treasured memories and lifelong friends and wish the new company and each of you the very best and continued success.
FRIDAY 2:30 PM UPDATE: Sources now tell me that Andrea Wong was fired. “She wasn’t making money. Her P&L statements were getting worse and worse. This was strictly business.” And, wow, look at the terse statement that came from Abbe Raven, the CEO/President of A&E Television Networks, just now: “We thank Andrea for her many contributions to Lifetime. We are pleased she will be with us for a transition period and we wish her well in her future endeavors.”
FRIDAY 1:15 PM: “It’s done. She’s made her settlement deal,” a source just told me. This is far from unexpected after Disney-ABC Television Group, Hearst, and NBC Universal announced in August that A&E Television Networks was buying Lifetime Entertainment Services where Andrea Wong is the CEO/President. Almost immediately news reached me that Wong “doesn’t want to be in the Raven fold” — a reference to Abbe Raven, the CEO/president of A&E Television Networks. Ultimately, it was Wong’s choice whether to stay or not, and she decided to exit because her contract allowed for an out, I’m told. So where will Wong go? Best bet is back to Disney/ABC in some capacity where she was mentored by Bob Iger for a dozen or so years. Wong came to Lifetime in April 2007 direct from ABC where she was EVP of Alternative Programming, Specials and Late Night. At the network, she oversaw the development of The Bachelor as well as the network’s Dancing With the Stars and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. At Lifetime, she added original scripted series to the network’s mainstay women-in-jeopardy movies. Most recently she stole Project Runway from Bravo in what developed into a bitter court battle between NBC vs the show’s producers Harvey & Bob Weinstein.