With CW entertainment chief Dawn Ostroff set to step down later this spring, the network that was formed in 2006 from the ashes of CBS Corp.-owned UPN and Warner Bros.’ WB Network is coming to a crossroads. Though up 8% in total viewers and flat in the 18 to 34 demo this season, The CW’s most-watched show, America’s Next Top Model, averages 3.5 million viewers, about half as much as MTV’s Jersey Shore.
Executives are casting about for a new leader, and one name that has generated traction is JoAnn Alfano, who this month stepped down as head of development at Lifetime. Multiple sources say Alfano has been approached by CBS and WB but has some reservations about the gig. (Coincidentally, Ostroff also was Lifetime’s head of development before going to UPN.) Andrea Wong —another erstwhile Lifetime exec and Alfano’s former boss — is frequently mentioned as a candidate as well. But one source muses that Wong might be looking for a “bigger” perch. (CW declined to comment.) Both names have been bandied about for the E! chief position left open by Ted Harbert’s move to New York as well, as has internal candidate Lisa Berger, the net’s executive vp for entertainment programming. (Neither Alfano nor Wong responded to requests for comment.)
Warner Horizon’s Craig Erwich, ABC Family’s Kate Juergens and former Lifetime chief Susanne Daniels have similarly seen their names tossed into the mix. Former NBC boss Jeff Gaspin also has been floated, but sources say he’s not a candidate.
To be sure, the CW’s bifurcated management structure—Ostroff reports to CBS’ Leslie Moonves and Nancy Tellem, as well as WB’s Barry Meyer and Bruce Rosenblum—is viewed by some as a turnoff. And while the network provides a platform for Warner Bros. content —enabling the studio to reap backend cash — its struggle to turn a profit (its projected to lose another $57 million in 2011, per SNL Kagan) has long led to debate within the industry about the net’s long-term survival. Meantime, Ostroff is carrying on with business as usual, set to travel to New York next week for development presentations.