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TCA: CW Chief Dawn Ostroff Talks Up Digital Dollars

The CW's Dawn Ostroff is now the longest-sitting broadcast entertainment president, something wryly noted in CW communications chief Paul Hewitt's introduction for Ostroff's question and answer session at the Television Critics Association summer Press Tour Thursday.

But Ostroff, who has run The CW since its inception in 2006 - and ran UPN before that - said top TV jobs are nonetheless inherently temporary.

"I've been in this job, between UPN and The CW for nine years now," she said. "This is my ninth Press Tour. And I always says they're rented chairs. It's a rented seat. "

Ostroff was responding to a question about the abrupt resignation of Steve McPherson from ABC on the eve of the Press Tour July 27.

"I've seen a lot of people come and go in these jobs, and a lot of people who I respect a lot," continued Ostroff. "So for us it's just not that unusual. I wish Steve all the best."

But if The CW, which like it's corporate big sister CBS seems like the picture of stability, the little network also has a lot at stake this fall when it will expand its original programming to five nights a week from four and continue to look for more revenue opportunities for online streaming.

The CW has expanded the ad load in episodes streamed online to mirror the linear television ad minutes, while other networks keep online ad-loads markedly thinner.

"The idea was we wanted [the ad load] to be interchangeable whether they're watching it online or on air," said Ostroff. "What we have found so far is that the viewers will sit there and watch more commercial content in [streaming episodes]. I think this could be a blue print for the rest of the industry. We've all been trying to figure it out."

She touted the network's pioneering use of Facebook and Twitter, pointing out that The CW's young, wired, platform agnostic viewers made those initiatives obligatory. And the network's online sales initiative and innovations in measuring viewers online, said Ostroff, is beginning to show meaningful profit in the digital space.

"We've developed a way to measure and sell online demographics that have been fully embraced by the advertising community," said Ostroff. "So we're no longer looking at digital pennies. We've achieved digital dollars."

CW will launch two new dramas in the fall, Hellcats, which will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. after America's Next Top Model, and Nikita, which will get the post-Vampire Diaries slot Thursdays at 9 p.m.

Ostroff described Nikita, an action hour starring Maggie Q, as a departure from the CW's melodramatic, soapy brand. And she noted that Hellcats was "an underdog" during the development process. But she said, the fact that the show, about a college cheerleading squad, had "big production numbers" (echoes of Glee) helped sell it.

"We really were all surprised that we liked [Hellcats] as much as we did," she said. "People like watching the dancing and the cheering. We think it's going to do very well after Top Model."