Carole Black’s decision to step down as pres/CEO of Lifetime when her contract expires in March opens up a primo vacancy to replace Lifetime’s 1st female CEO (and the 1st woman to crack CableFAX 100’s Top 10). We think replacing her with a male would be a big mistake given how Black managed to define Lifetime as a home for women as opposed to just a general entertainment net during her 5-year tenure. Also adding to the pressure to pick a female chief is the growing profile of Gerry Laybourne at rival Oxygen. If the board searches internally, evp/gm Lifetime TV Lynn Picard would make the list. Within the Disney/ABC Cable family, there’s SoapNET’s Deborah Blackwell. One interesting thought: bring back former programming maven Dawn Ostroff from UPN. Ostroff was seen as Black’s natural replacement before she exited in Jan ’02 to become pres of UPN ent. (Would she be willing to abandon the broadcast ship?) Black, who has spurred off-and-on rumors of a departure for years, says she looks forward to moving back home to L.A. (she’s been commuting between NYC and the coast) and taking personal time. — One More: Finding a successor for Black isn’t the only item on Lifetime’s to-do list. The net continues to interview for someone to fill the job of programming evp Barbara Fisher, who left when her contract expired in May. Fisher replaced Ostroff in ’02. — Positive Thinking: Despite her departure, Black will still be the honoree at Cable Positive’s annual benefit, May 10, NYC. "We’re still proud to be honoring Carole for all she and Lifetime have done," Steve Villano said Tues. "She’s the personification of public service leadership in the industry."

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