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Upfronts 2012: CW President Talks Network Reinvention, Dish's Auto Hop, Canceling 'Ringer'

Issue 16 BIZ Mark Pedowitz Executive Suite - H 2012

CW president Mark Pedowitz calls Dish's commercial erasing technology "foolhardy." "They're biting the hand that supplies them with content."

NEW YORK – The CW president Mark Pedowitz returned repeatedly to the themes of stability and investment in content that serves the network’s tech-savvy younger consumers on multiple platforms at the network’s upfront presentation Thursday morning. In a tight (less than an hour) and lively (kicked off by a rapper Flo Rida) presentation, Pedowitz acknowledged the need to rebuild CW, which has seen its ratings among viewers 18-49 and 18-34 tumble double-digits this season. 

 “One of the first things promised when I came to The CW was more original programming,” Pedowitz, who joined the network from ABC Studios in May 2011, told media buyers during his upfront address. He noted that The CW will add 50 hours of original programming in 2012, including a summer reality slate.

Among those taking in the presentation at the New York City Center was Pedowitz’s predecessor, Dawn Ostroff.

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“When we talk about a vision, we must start with the shows,” he said, and with a fall schedule that adds three new dramas -- the Mamie Gummer medical drama Emily Owens, M.D., the DC Comics title Arrow and a reboot of Beauty and the Beast – when The CW kicks off its 2012-13 season in October. Sex and the City prequel The Carrie Diaries and Cult, from Gossip Girl co-creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, will bow in midseason. All of the new series will be included in existing streaming deals with Netflix and Hulu.

In a postshow press briefing, Pedowitz said he hasn’t ruled out comedy completely; there are two scripts that he likes and probably will put into development. But, he added, “We felt strategically that we needed to re-stabilize the schedule and that [drama] was the way to do it.”

All but one of The CW's returning shows -- Gossip Girl, Hart of Dixie, 90210, Supernatural, Nikita, Top Model -- will weather schedule moves. The Vampire Diaries is the sole show to stay put on the same night and time (8 p.m. Thursdays). “We shuffled the schedule around because there was a reason to,” he said. “It was strategic. It signifies change, and change here is very important.”

Pedowitz attributed the network’s ratings slide in part to its schedule of aging shows. But he added that The CW, which was the first broadcast network to offer a fully integrated broadcast/online media buy, does not gauge its success or failure by overnight ratings alone. And he added, with some bemused frustration, that he has “become more knowledgeable [about] Nielsen than I ever wanted to be in my life.”

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The CW measures online streaming with Google’s DoubleClick and also has a measurement deal with Rentrak and will unveil soon a new multiplatform measurement deal, said Rob Tuck, executive vp ad sales. Pedowitz stressed that the network is committed to continuing to make its content available on tablets, mobile devices and streaming services and that its affiliates are “comfortable” with the approach.

He also weighed in on what has become the bugaboo of the 2012 upfront: Dish Network’s Auto Hop technology that automatically erases commercials.

“In the long term, it's a very foolhardy thing to do,” said Pedowitz. “They’re biting the hand that supplies them with content.”

He also addressed his decision to cancel the Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle Ringer, saying the show's serialized format did not help it hold its audience during reruns. He said Gellar, the beloved star of iconic series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, understood the decision and that the exec is committed to getting her back on The CW in some way, if not in a different series then as a producer. And he admitted that’s he’s still being inundated with e-mails from angry Gellar fans. “She will be back on The CW in some form,” he vowed.

Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com

Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie