MIPCOM 2012: Conde Nast Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff Predicts Heavy 'Digital' Competition for Broadcasters

Dawn Ostroff, former CW Entertainment chief
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The "Gossip Girl" cheerleader greenlighted the series shortly after launching The CW network in 2006.

Delivering a keynote in Cannes, the former Lifetime and CW exec said “digital is following the same path cable did in its early years.”

Arguably it takes someone who’s been in the TV trenches for 20-odd years but Dawn Ostroff put it all in perspective.

Delivering a keynote at the Mipcom TV market Tuesday in Cannes, the president of Condé Nast Entertainment told the assembled that “digital is following the same path cable did in its early years.”

Just as the cable biz in the U.S. started out putting out short vignettes and music clips before advancing to longer-form original programming, so too digital has experimented with Webisodes and such, and is just now dipping its toes into the original series waters.

“Over time,” she explained, “cablers became better storytellers, taking us inside fascinating worlds.” In the process, she went on, their success forced the broadcast players “to raise their own game.”

STORY: Dawn Ostroff Named President of Conde Nast Entertainment

In her overview remarks the former Lifetime and CW topper said she thought “digital” would have the same opportunity: eventually ante-ing up for all producers. She singled out Jon Avnet’s WIGS site as being a cyber destination where original ideas and new and established talent are thriving online, with 16 million uniques and 87,000 actual subscribers at last count.

As for her own challenges at CNE, Ostroff, who’s been in her post for almost a year, said her division intends to take “some of the great stories from our magazines and do them for the screen ourselves.”

She was referring to the fact that a number of articles from CN publications as diverse as Vanity Fair and Wired have been turned into movies over the last decade – but done so by outsiders: everything from Brokeback Mountain and Eat, Pray Love to Shattered Glass and the just released Argo. She also pointed out that there were some 80,000 articles languishing in the Condé Nast archive (and she has readers combing through them) as well as a deluge of new content every week in the publisher’s various magazine outlets.

Asked by moderator Buzz Bissenger, who himself writes for Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair, how come she thinks CNE can succeed at this after so many publishers have failed to make the synergistic transition to video, Ostroff said that the financial support from the parent company was there, the editors on her new team are first-rate veterans and that the world has changed, in that it’s receptive to many different kinds of storytelling on many different platforms.

“The challenge,” she told the attendees in the Grand Auditorium of the Cannes Palais, is “to create a hit – not just for a network or even a country but for the entire world.”