A+E Networks' Amy Baker on Building a "Fempire"

By WomenAdvancing Archives
Cover image for  article: A+E Networks' Amy Baker on Building a "Fempire"

It was wonderful to catch up with Amy Baker for this interview. We worked together at Discovery back in 1990. Since then she has scaled the heights of cable sales and is now Executive Vice President, National Ad Sales for all female networks at A+E Networks including Lifetime, LMN: Lifetime Movie Network and their newest brand, fyi.

Lifetime has been around since 1984 and has been a leading cable brand during that time. But they recently realized that the network needed to be even more invested in the women's space to remain relevant to today's female consumers.  To do this they embarked on an extensive cultural research study late last year which concentrated on all aspects of a woman's day. "We recruited more than 465 women and asked them over many weeks to log what they did, felt and watched," Amy told me. "The group was a highly diverse one and yet had many things in common.  We wanted to understand everything about them."

Charlene Weisler: What was the ultimate goal of the study and what were some conclusions?

Amy Baker: Essentially, we wanted to understand the state of womanhood today. What we found was that there are a lot of things women love about being a woman, [including] motherhood, female friendships and the emotional intelligence associated with being a woman.  Unfortunately there are still many things that women do not like. Too often, they feel under-valued.  They suffer from inequality, especially in pay, which is a big conversation going on today.  Women do not stand up for themselves as much as they want to for fear of being labeled difficult or, worse, "bitchy."  Our research identified a universal response regardless of age, race or socioeconomic background that women rallied around: Strength.  Women look to content for characters who convey strength.

Charlene: What are the next steps for Lifetime with these key learnings?

Amy:  We aim to be the aggregator and curator of the new feminist voice in entertainment. We are building our brand around strong women.  We are going to be unapologetic, fun and edgy, but never too earnest or preachy.  And it is never girl against girl.  We will always be inclusive.  Of most importance, our voice will speak to all women with heart and humor.  We needed a word to capture this fun attitude for our consumers and advertisers; we are calling this our Fempire!  The Fempire serves as a rallying cry for being positive, bold and fierce.  We'll continue our research efforts through the summer and beyond and plan to have even more insights about women to share in the fall.

Charlene: Why do this now?

Amy: While we were doing our study, we noticed a major cultural shift happening.  Women started to dominate in almost every category of pop culture and project images of strength from Taylor Swift to Beyoncé in music, Tina Fey and Amy Schumer in comedy and Katniss Everdeen from "The Hunger Games."  And actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays Katniss Everdeen, are using their platform to advocate for equality for women.  Interesting enough, there is a fourth wave of feminism going on now that is influenced by technology and empowerment.

Charlene: How will the Lifetime brand transition to Fempire?

Amy: This has been a transition over the last four years. We now have a name to it and have deeper insights. Our audience is already there in terms of how they see us.  In fact, in recent focus groups they told us that their perception of us has changed.  They no longer see us as the "damsel in distress" network of old.  They actually see us as the network that empowers women and use us as a scratch for their emotional itches. They already see us as a Fempire … the place they turn to for strength.

Charlene: Here is a question many of us face: How do you achieve work/life balance?

Amy: I've always prioritized where I need to be.  I never missed my kids' big events, but everything is a trade-off. I go to their small events where I think it will make a difference in their lives. I tell women with whom I work to take care of themselves which will make [them] stronger at work. Work and life balance is a marathon, not a sprint.

Charlene: What advice can you give a young woman in college today about a career in media?

Amy: In general, choose a career that you are passionate about. Don't worry about your first or even your second job. Just get experience and enjoy the journey. There is no book of instructions regarding a career path. College kids today may feel that they cannot afford to take any risks. They need that internship on their resume. But you need to take risks. Even if a job seems like a big detour, that is okay.

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