Report: CBS and Warner Bros Committed to The CW, But What About Dawn Ostroff?

Categories: 1-Featured,Broadcast TV

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February 1st, 2010

I'm probably developing an Internet crush on Broadcasting & Cable's Melissa Grego.   She has a range that is somewhat irresistible for me from the intricacies of why broadcast retransmission fees matter, to how CW stays around despite bleeding eight figures of red ink.

If Ms. Grego takes up the charge and starts writing about why  "On Demand" is important, I might have to figure out how to build a TV by the Numbers shrine to honor her.

Anyway, back to the CW...

The Network Loses Money, But The Studios Make Money Anyway

In a post headlined  "How The CW Stays Undead" (and subtitled: The CW's owners say that despite eight-figure losses at the network, the profitable buzz-worthy shows make it an overall win" Grego writes that despite not meeting the expectations originally set for the network and despite annual losses believed to be in the range of $25 million to $50 million,  and despite being firmly rooted in fifth place among the English language broadcasters, CW's parents still manage to be happy.

But according to the people who really count in determining The CW's fate—the network's owners and affiliates—The CW will be here for a long time. The actual network's red ink is just part of the picture, according to CBS and Warner Bros. executives who say that despite the losses on the network level, the profitable programming assets created by the venture overall are a big win.

“So long as the economic model is consistent or better than it is today, we see no reason not to be fully invested and supportive of The CW as a brand, as a broadcast network and whatever ancillary businesses are developed as a result of this investment,” Warner Bros. TV Group President Bruce Rosenblum says. “So there's no hidden agenda here. There's not an end date to the network.”

None of that is surprising at this point, this has often been discussed on our blog for the last couple of seasons.  What was more surprising was the admission from Rosenblum that the network hasn't grown as fast, or generated as much revenue as they expected.  But the article notes that while it can often take several years for studios to make money on shows, Gossip Girl, 90210 and The Vampire Diaries all turned a profit in their first seasons.  The story cites anonymous sources claiming 90210 makes $2 million an episode in international licensing.

Finally Branching Out From Women 18-34?

Also surprising were admissions from some of CW's investors/partners ( notably Tribune) and Dawn Ostroff herself about the need to reach broader demographics.

“Next is to broaden out our schedule even further,” CW President of Entertainment Dawn Ostroff says of the opportunity to build on this season's successes with breakout Vampire Diaries and promising newbie Life Unexpected, which debuted on Jan. 18.

Is Dawn merely saying what people want to hear?   How much broader can the network target next year?  With Melrose Place the only show that will clearly not be back next year, it's unclear how much room will exist on a schedule that is already limited to 10 hours a week (Monday through Friday 8p-10p).   More and more it seems a lock that Supernatural will return for a sixth season, despite the show's creator originally having a 5 season arc planned out.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if Smallville returns for a 10th season either, but even if it doesn't, it's on Fridays.  Not the best day attempt casting a wide net.

Also, whether those involved with One Tree Hill want to go another season is unclear, but based on the ratings it seems like a lock if they wish to continue.

Of course, with so much of the schedule in reruns, particularly Wednesdays when America's Next Top Model is in between seasons, there are many more slots available on the schedule than meet the eye from just looking at the current crop of shows.

But What of Dawn Ostroff?

While I have no doubt CW will still be around,  Ms. Ostroff's fate is less certain.  The network itself got a resounding vote of support from its partners in the B&C piece, but if Ms. Ostroff has such support it didn't make it into the article.

That said, there was a separate and lengthy Q&A with Dawn Ostroff.     I want to leave something for Bill to have fun with though :-)   But I couldn't resist this one:

What is the biggest challenge facing The CW moving forward?

The biggest challenge is the shift in the way the consumer is getting their content. Clearly, we created this network in a time when there's a huge sea change. When you think about it, we're only on the air 10 hours a week. We don't control our air 24/7. We have a much bigger challenge than anyone else. Not only do we have limited shelf space, but our viewer is getting content many different ways. Our streaming numbers are big. Our DVR numbers are huge. I could tell you many shows where our DVR numbers are actually larger than the live, on-air numbers.

So our viewers are watching many different ways, and before you know it mobile will be kicking in as well. Our younger viewers are early adopters. They're going to be the first ones trying out new things.

She could tell us many shows where their DVR numbers are actually larger than the live, on-air numbers?

Can she really?  Really?  No!  Not when it comes to viewing, anyway.   In the last full week of November sweeps - the week of November 16-22;  which is the last good week of DVR data we have  since the CW was in reruns for most of the two months that followed, there was no show that had more DVR viewers than live viewers.  Indeed, excluding that week's only rerun (an encore of ANTM on Friday), the show with the most DVR viewing (Vampire Diaries) had less DVR viewing than the least-watched show live (Melrose Place).

Even within the demos, no show had a higher 18-49 or 18-34 viewing with DVR viewing than live viewing.   Perhaps with women 18-34 (a demo we didn't see) it happened, though given the overall 18-34 numbers, it looks like Gossip Girl would be the only possibility.  Gossip Girl had a live 18-34 rating of a 1.25, and added another .92 via DVR viewing.

I'm certain Dawn can't tell us many shows where the DVR numbers are larger than the live numbers. I'm not even yet sure she can produce any instance of that case.

That said, I certainly agree with the notion that as you target younger viewers, especially viewers under the age of 25, reaching them with live telecasts becomes a much bigger challenge.

 
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