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Some thoughts on Dawn Ostroff leaving the CW


The CW (2)

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Deadline Hollywood has reported that Dawn Ostroff, president of the CW, will be stepping down from her position to spend more time with her family. And while I feel that Nellie Andreeva painted a far rosier picture than actuality, many commentators on the internet have proclaimed that Ostroff’s resignation will signal an era where the CW will competitively compete with the Big 3 (and NBC).

I’m not sure how exactly I feel about Mrs. Ostroff’s tenure at the network. She made some terrible mistakes, but hindsight is 20/20. The CW is down this year after finally achieving a comparably lucrative series with The Vampire Diaries last year. Neither Nikita nor Hellcats have performed as well as predicted in either the 18-49 demo or the W18-34. Sundays were given back to affiliates after programming failures with Media Rights Capital. Renewing 7th Heaven for another season after the “series” finale was a mistake. Canceling Everwood was too premature. Yet even the most celebrated television executives have made some foul-ups. Nina Tessler is one of the best executives in the industry but also the woman who greenlit Viva Laughlin.

While many have first looked towards her failures as justifications for some strange anger felt towards this television executive, it is also important to remember the essential decision she made when creating the network. Dawn Ostroff has developed an extremely strong brand reputation for the CW, successfully utilizing social media and web content to capitalize on the network’s target audience. She’s made streaming television profitable, and her model will be utilized by Hulu and other networks in the coming years. The Vampire Diaries is also an extremely strong performer on the already soapy Thursday. Mrs. Ostroff was in a position destined for mediocrity. Taking two failing brand, assembling a “best of” schedule and then hoping to establish some credibility with the audience is senseless. Instead, she elected to focus on more niche markets to create a brand before expanding her target.

Yes, this is the women who canceled Reaper and Veronica Mars, the later to no fault of her own. I’ve never seen an executive more weight behind a struggling show than Ostroff did with Veronica Mars. If anything, she deserves praise for guiding the limping series to a third year. And Reaper? It was a bubble show that did not match the network’s brand. These things happen.

Where does the CW need to go from here? Their strong brand association may actually stunt any further growth in the 18-49 demo in a bit of an ironic twist. Even with The Simpson and Married… With Children, Fox needed football to truly compete with the ABC, NBC and CBS. Football obviously clashes with the strong branding of the current CW. Can the CW expand its target to 18-34 men and women where football might be a viable option? That’s easier said then done. In its last years, the WB attempted to transition to a more broad network. Critically lauded series such Jack & Bobby failed to resonate with audiences. It’s not impossible by any means, just difficult.

To those of you who think that this will be a new era for the CW, maybe. But don’t expect too many drastic changes right away. Not only will Mrs. Ostroff by green-lighting next fall’s projects, but the CW is very limited on how many series they can order. Cleaning house will not happen next year, even if the new executive is somehow averse to everything the CW brand stands for. Any significant changes will take time. And money.

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