CW's Dawn Ostroff says its all about the programming flow

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December 5th, 2008

Bill will tell you that between the two of us, I'm much more prone to wanting to give Dawn and the CW the benefit of the doubt. But, in the end, the numbers are the numbers. This morning I read in an article from David Goetzl from yesterday on Media Post titled Dawn Ostroff Transforms CW.

I finally figured out the secret of Dawn's success. The Force is with her, and she is skilled at Jedi mind tricks. It's like she pulls a stick out of the mud, holds it out and they see not a stick in the mud, but an ice cream cone. And they lap it up.

Impressive. It's a skill, perhaps Dawn's best skill. She is obviously a fantastic salesperson, and that's a wonderful skill to have if selling television advertising is the game.

The article cites two numbers which were among numbers we'd been looking to track down. One was that Gossip Girl is up 44% this year among women 18-34 and that the network wide, the CW is up 11% among women 18-34 this year. We still hope to do some sort of point-in-time season-to-date analysis on how that compares to the other networks (which I imagine is very favorably) soon. I don't think these numbers are to be sneezed at - it is progress.

But because I understand the overall numbers and how the percentages work, I also understand how tiny of an increase 11% among 18-34 year old women winds up being. But it's progress, and progress in the right direction if your goal is to target 18-34 year old females. I have no problem with that salesmanship.

I do however have a problem with this salesmanship:

Now, with wrestling gone, Ostroff said there is more of an opportunity to laser-focus on young women and build some programming flow across the week.

Oh REALLY? Because, you know, Everybody Hates Chris, and The Game and a repeat or whatever they stick in the Friday 9pm slot create so.much.flow. All wrestling being gone actually seems to have done was remove a million plus (1.27 million) 18-49 year olds from the weekly averages. I find it hard - approaching impossible -- to believe that the removal of Friday Night Smackdown! is a large contributor to the growth of Gossip Girl's 18-34 female viewing, yet its absence is the single largest contributor to the CW's decrease in 18-49 viewing.

My take? They see the same numbers we see and they are in damage control mode around losing Friday Night Smackdown! Or Dawn's drinking her own kool-aide. Take your pick. There's NO WAY an 11% network wide increase among 18-34 females (which is a tiny number in the absolute) is going to offset the 18-49 attrition where the CW is down 13.3% so far this season. That decrease is almost completely attributable to Friday Night Smackdown's exodus.

That's flow but it's in the wrong direction. In CW's defense, with the exception of CBS (and Univision, and of course now MNT which picked up Friday Night Smackdown!) the other nets are down similarly among 18-49 year olds and The CW is down the least (excluding Uni and MNT) among the aggregate 18-34 demo.

I don't fault the salesmanship, but the whole notion of flow coming out of Friday when you don't program nationally on Saturday or Sunday (at least when the year began) seems completely bogus. CW could have kept Friday Night Smackdown!, moved Everybody Hates Chris and The Game to Wednesdays paired with America's Next Top Model and been hardly the worse for wear among 18-34 year old females and been much, much better off with 18-49 year olds.

Do I think EHC and The Game are ideally paired with ANTM? No. But, the numbers indicate the approach would've worked much better. Sure, I have the benefit of hindsight, and I'll admit that's a huge advantage. I also lack Dawn's vision around the importance of "flow" coming out of Friday nights.

The CW, now with good programming Feng Shui.


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