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After weeks of speculation, longtime ABC exec Mark Pedowitz will take over for departing entertainment chief Dawn Ostroff as president of the CW network.
In the new role, Pedowitz will oversee not only programming but also sales, marketing, distribution, finance, research and publicity. It’s a fitting role for a well-liked executive who brings with him experience in development, production and business affairs from his nearly two-decade stint at ABC. Mutliple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that he brings with him big-picture thinking and an overall creative vision to elevate the female-skewing net.
“The gig was something that was a little bit of a wish fulfillment for me. I always wanted to run a broadcast entity,” Pedowitz tells THR, before acknowledging that the most exciting piece of the new role is also the biggest challenge: “How do you enhance revenue and how do you grow it.”
The announcement comes at a poignant time for the network, which was formed in 2006 from the ashes of CBS Corp.-owned UPN and Warner Bros.’ WB Network. Down 9 percent in the 18-34 demographic and steady in total viewers thus far this season, the network still draws only a fraction of its broadcast network rivals’ numbers, and its most-watched shows, America’s Next Top Model and The Vampire Diaries, average about half as much as MTV’s Jersey Shore.
What’s more, while the CW provides a platform for Warner Bros. and CBS content, enabling the studio to reap backend cash, its struggle to turn a profit — it is 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.
“I think you have to look at the network from a holistic point of view,” notes Pedowitz of the value the net brings to its parent companies. “But you also have to look at it from the perspective of the wealth of revenue that can be derived. I think the individuals here have already begun the process of the digital conversions, where they’re way ahead and much more innovative in what they’ve been doing than anybody else. So I believe there’s a real opportunity in the digital side.”
As far as programming goes, he hopes to broaden the net’s fare slightly. Though he won’t say whether his plan includes a return to comedy, he recognizes the need to add content to his schedule that is repeatable. A common criticism of the CW in recent years is that its glossy, serialized dramas tend to look very similar.
Ostroff, who is the longest-running entertainment chief of broadcast’s current crop, has been readying for her exit for much of this season. She will assist Pedowitz in the transition through May, before relocating to New York with her family. Whether she will join him on stage at next month’s upfront presentation to the advertising community is not yet known.
Earlier this week, Ostroff’s regime renewed five series, including Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries, 90210, Supernatural and Top Model. Though real estate is limited come fall, multiple sources say The Secret Circle (from Vampire Diaries’ Kevin Williamson) and Heavenly pilots look to be strong contenders for next season’s schedule. Pedowitz has already read the net’s pilot scripts and says he will begin delving into the process later on Thursday.
Pedowitz joined ABC in 1991 as a senior vice president business affairs and contracts, before being elevated to executive vice president ABC Entertainment Television Group and then taking over as president of ABC Studios in 2004. During some five years in that position, he oversaw a string of hit shows, including Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, Desperate Housewives and Scrubs.
After a lengthy career within the studio system, he set up Pine Street Entertainment in February of last year. The shingle, which has a first look deal with Warner Bros. Television, has Meet Jane in contention for a series pickup at Lifetime.
His long-held relationships with brass at both Warner Bros. and CBS, too, are believed to give him an advantage — CW’s bifurcated management structure has had Ostroff reporting to CBS’ Leslie Moonves and Nancy Tellem and Warner Bros.’ Barry Meyer and Bruce Rosenblum.
“Since its inception, Dawn and her team have built the CW into a brand-name destination for young female viewers with franchise shows as well as forward-thinking digital and marketing campaigns. We now look forward to Mark leading the CW to even greater heights,” said Tellem in a statement.
Adds Rosenblum, “Mark is a seasoned industry leader possessing a strategic combination of business savvy and strong relationships with the creative community. He’s the perfect executive to help us take the network to the next level: a key content driver with vast experience in all disciplines.”
The enthusiasm extends to creatives, who speak highly of both his style and his savvy.
“Mark is one of the good guys. You can’t be more happy when [one] of the good guys actually wins and gets a big job like this,” Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence tells THR. “As a writer, he is the first studio head that ever in a meeting with me gave an opinion and then said, ‘But what do I know?’ And that’s why I will literally love that guy forever.”
Brothers and Sisters executive producer and former showrunner Greg Berlanti agrees. “Mark Pedowitz is as rare a person as they come, and everything a showrunner could ever hope for in a leader and an executive,” he tells THR in an email. “He is kind and fair but also honest and demanding when he needs to be. He understands people and the process of making television as well as anyone I’ve ever worked with.”
Adds Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes: “I like it when good things happen to good people. This is well deserved. Mark’s got great taste and was always a great champion for me.”
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