I don’t know anyone who thought it would last — and it didn’t. A few months after the August merger of Lifetime Networks into A&E Television Networks, Andrea Wong is leaving as president and CEO. PaidContent can confirm that she announced the move to her staff via e-mail after the news first appeared on Deadline Hollywood, where Nikki Finke now claims she was fired. (Variety has the e-mail now.) That doesn’t track with what I’ve been hearing prior to today or this afternoon, as various people describe her leaving as a loss. AETN has yet to respond to our query but we were able to confirm the basics from multiple sources.
Wong, who replaced Betty Cohen at Lifetime in 2007 and quickly shook it up, went from heading the Hearst-ABC (NYSE: DIS) JV to reporting to Abbe Raven, the A&E vet who president and CEO of the merged AETN. ABC vet Wong, whom other networks have tried to poach, continued to head Lifetime Networks — reporting to Raven, a situation that wasn’t expected to last long. As one exec said today, how long do you think Raven would have stayed if Wong was heading AETN?
No word yet on who will manage Lifetime in the interim, although if the pattern holds from other AETN networks, a president/GM is more likely than another CEO. Wong is credited — or discredited, depending who you read — for snatching The Weinstein Company’s Project Runway from Bravo and putting it on Lifetime after a lengthy legal dispute. The “LA” season, cobbled together in a hurry and hobbled by not having the usual judges on consistently, was well watched by panned by show devotees. Back in New York with a full cast, the current series is back in the groove but not meeting Bravo numbers. Lifetime overall hasn’t been doing well in the ratings game, so Wong leaves on a lower note than might have been expected.
Under Wong, Lifetime hit its digital stride — building up casual gaming with organic efforts, partnerships with RealArcade and King.com, and acquiring dress-up site Roiworld.com to launch a gaming studio. Project Runway full episodes went online for the first time after the move to Lifetime.