Ostroff: CW meeting promise
EmptyFor signs that the 4-month-old CW network is living up to its UPN-plus-WB Network promise, look no further than Wednesday nights, CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff told reporters during her first state of the net address since the CW's Sept. 19 premiere.
Ostroff pointed to the successful pairing of "America's Next Top Model" and "One Tree Hill" on Wednesday. The shows went head-to-head in the 8 p.m. slot last season on UPN and WB, respectively. At first blush they weren't an obvious match, but the one thing the catwalk competition series and the angsty teen drama have in common is ardent young female fans, Ostroff said Friday at the Television Critics Assn.'s winter press tour.
"I heard from so many people, not in research sessions, just people that I knew, 'Oh, my God. I love 'One Tree Hill' and I love 'Top Model,' " Ostroff said. "We just kept hearing that."
She said "Hill" has done a better job of hanging on to "Top Model's" lead-in than any other program UPN had paired with it in the past. And thanks to "Model's" help, "Hill" has seen a revival after a tough season last year.
Ostroff fielded questions about the CW's progress to date and the fast fade of its first original drama series, "Runaway," last fall. Ostroff reminded the TCA crowd that the network remains in its infancy and still is grappling with the affiliate switches in local markets and other outgrowths of the UPN-WB merger.
"We're very happy where we are," Ostroff said. "We've always said that for us the goal is to be able to, at the end of the season, see some growth over UPN and the WB, and in some cases we have already seen growth over the networks in different demos and different time periods."
She reiterated that the CW's strategy was to use its established programs to launch its first year, and then ramp up development significantly for the 2007-08 season. A premiere date for the midseason drama from Kevin Williamson, "Hidden Palms" — which Ostroff described as part "Dawson's Creek" and part "Scream" — will be announced shortly.
"We have more in development than either UPN or WB ever had for (the upcoming season). So you will definitely see more new shows next season," Ostroff said.
On Friday, the CW announced the early pickup of the comedy "Everybody Hates Chris" for a third season. Ostroff wasn't shy about chiding critics for leaving it off the TCA's poll of top programs for 2006.
"We just really wanted to make a statement that this show is worthy of everybody's attention," she said of the early pickup. The CW also has set March 6 as the premiere date for the eight-week run of reality entry "Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll" in the Tuesday 9 p.m. berth. "Veronica Mars," the regular occupant of the time slot, returns with its first episodes crafted as stand-alone stories rather than revolving around an ongoing mystery, Ostroff said.
Ostroff announced the eight-episode pickup of the reality series "Crowned," from Fox TV Studios and creator/executive producer Laurie Girion. The elimination-style contest will revolve around multiple mother-daughter teams living in one big house and competing against one another to win a beauty pageant. The focus is on the mother-daughter relationships and how they react under tension. Ostroff stressed that all of the women involved in the show are 18 or older.
The CW also confirmed Friday that it will begin offering streaming video access to a number of its shows, including "Veronica," "Chris," "Hill," "Beauty and the Geek" and "Girlfriends."
Later in the session, the CW marketing chief Rick Haskins talked up the viewer response to the CW's Web site, including its create-your-own-promo tool that has yielded about 20,000 submissions from "future network marketing executives," he said.
Advertising sales head Bill Morningstar and Cyriac Roeding, vp wireless at CBS Interactive, also gave short presentations. Morningstar touted the CW's success with its "content wraps," featuring program content blended with advertising spots. Roeding gave a tour of the new "America's Next Top Model" avatar game for mobile phones. Roeding noted that the game is so intertwined with the "Top Model" TV show that when contestants are eliminated or receive a makeover on an episode, the changes will be reflected within minutes on the game for users with next-generation phones.
At the start of his presentation, Roeding gamely noted Bill Gates' famous dictum against doing a live tech demonstration in front of a crowd, then proceeded to struggle with a live demo of the "Top Model" game.