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Monday, July 21, 2008

More on The CW Network President Dawn Ostroff

Source: Zap2it.com

The CW zigs where others only dare to zag
By
Hanh Nguyen

Like any adolescent, The CW is still trying to discover its identity, experiment with innovative ideas and occasionally make some bold, if borderline wackily uncertain moves. Hey, they may even offend people (read: critics) along the way. Welcome to the first green network, the one that has less to do with living green than spending greenbacks.

"Looking towards the future, we are very focused on women 18-34. We know that's our sweet spot and we know that's where we can make the most noise," says Dawn Ostroff, C-Dub's President during Saturday's Television Critics Association executive conference.

Among the most surprising announcements she made was the network is considering starting its upcoming 2009-2010 season in the summer instead of the fall. You see? Wacky.

"We're all talking about how we can have programming on throughout the year, at different times of the year," explains Ostroff. "We really feel we need to zig when everybody else is zagging. In fact, we're looking at putting on our '09-'10 season ... during the summer next year. To that end, we're even looking at shooting pilots much, much earlier this year, in October/November."

It's apparently a strategy of the early bird getting the viewers because this year the CW's 2008-'09 season will also start slightly early, on Sept. 1, about three or four weeks ahead of the other networks.

"We also have some shows we shall be plugging in throughout, some that we have not announced yet," adds Ostroff when confronted with a timeslot of eight weeks on the schedule that hasn't been accounted for. Check out
The CW's Fall Premiere Dates.

Farming It Out, Branding the Livestock

The CW does, however, account for its Sunday nights, which consists of four shows produced by Media Rights Capital. It's a curious mix:
In Harm's Way, a documentary show about dangerous jobs; Surviving Suburbia, a sitcom starring Bob Saget; Valentine, about a family of Greek gods who try to foster love around them; and Easy Money, a drama starring Laurie Metcalf about a family that runs a high interest loan business.

The big question is why The CW felt the need to hand over its Sunday programming block to this other company.

"The Sunday night formatting was a great opportunity for us to not have WWE [Smackdown] on Friday night, where it was really all men," says Ostroff. "There was no duplication in our audience at all for any of our other shows. When we look at the shows we're putting on Sunday night, we have real opportunity for flow. For viewers, it will be seamless ... in fact, much more seamless than WWE has been for the network."

As a strong performer, WWE, or rather its absence, may affect the network's overall ratings.

"It was a really tough decision and a bold decision to decide to take WWE off. It was not easy," acknowledge Ostroff. "The strategy of being able to brand this network was what we were thinking about."

Okay, gotcha. Forget men, bring on the women.

But with such branding, it's still unclear who has final say over the MRC shows, in which the CW insists they have creative control. Apparently the deal with MRC is so labyrinthine, Ostroff evades the critics' attempts to have her explain the deal three times. On the final round, she merely responds, "Let's leave it at it's a very complicated deal and we'll leave it at that. It is. Next question."

Our Fear Is Real

Another one of the new shows discussed that was not on the agenda is 13 - Fear Is Real (a CW not MRC show). As a surprise, Ostroff introduces a clip of the reality show brought to us by executive producer Sam Raimi and Jay Bienstock.

On this "The Blair Witch Project as a reality show," 13 people will arrive by bus to a remote area in the Louisiana bayou, one of the "most haunted areas on earth."

"What they don't know is that I'll be watching their every move," the clip's creepy announcer voice reveals. "They'll be dropped off deep in the woods where I'll play on their darkest fears. One by one they will be killed off. The last one alive will be awarded $66,666."

Uh, wait. We heard "killed." People will be killed?

"We'll do anything for attention here at the CW," Ostroff quips. "Well, what we say is that they are killed off or they disappear because once they're eliminated from the show, they're never seen again by the group of survivors.

"There's an environment that they created in the bayou of Louisiana where of course they know it's a reality show, but the intensity of the situation that they're living in and the kind of challenges that they're faced with really feel real to them while they're in it. We just finished the show. It's hot off the editing bay this week as a matter of fact. It was shocking to see how invested these contestants were. They really felt the horror."

Summary

Forget established schedules. Don't discuss certain upcoming shows at press tour. Get rid of a show that scored well. Have an outside company create your branding Sundays. Kill your contestants.

Well, that's different.

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