The CW: New Year, New Focus
Network drops comedy, Sundays to concentrate on drama, reality, an engaged Gen Y
By Marisa Guthrie -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/25/2009 2:00:00 AM
Last year, CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff addressed advertisers and the media at the network's upfront as a hologram. She was there in person, too, but the hologram was intended to cast the network as a cutting-edge alternative to their boring broadcast brethren. Few were paying attention, in part because The CW's presentation served as the unofficial after-party for ABC's party-less presentation.
This year, The CW was back at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater. And the crowd was all ears as Ostroff unspooled a development slate of new scripted dramas, including an update of Melrose Place starring Ashlee Simpson; an adaptation of the teen book series The Vampire Diaries from Dawson's Creek producer Kevin Williamson; and the Ashton Kutcher project The Beautiful Life, about fashion models caught in the vicious world of haute couture.
“This is the strongest development season ever, and the most cohesive lineup that we've ever had,” Ostroff said. Beating the dead horse of the week, Ostroff noted that The CW, which programs 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. five nights a week, next season will have “as much scripted programming as NBC.”
She also took the opportunity to boast about the network's engagement metrics: the largest percentage increase in DVR use among broadcast networks; an 18% increase in C3 ratings among its target audience of women 18-34; more than 200 million streams on TheCW.com this season; and consistent presence on the iTunes Top Ten. “We're not just selling The CW on ratings alone,” Ostroff pointed out.
Most of the network's schedule will get a makeover next season with the addition of three new dramas across the remaining five nights The CW programs. The network is handing Sunday back to the affiliates, which CW Television Network COO John Maatta described as a “win-win.”
“We tried a number of things on Sunday night,” Maatta said. “At the same time, the business of our affiliates is really challenged right now.”
Monday will stay intact with Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. Tuesday will be a flashback to Fox in the 1990s with 90210 leading into Melrose Place. On Wednesday, the 13th season of America's Next Top Model will lead into The Beautiful Life.
For those living on a space station, the new season of ANTM will feature women 5 feet 7 inches and under because, as host and executive producer Tyra Banks explained at the presentation, “I believe beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and now heights as well.”
Banks added that the new lowered height requirement has already generated heated interest bordering on “frenzy,” which prompted perhaps the biggest laugh of the presentation. A riot at a Manhattan casting call in March became a media hit.
Vampire Diaries will get the leadoff spot on Thursday, with Supernatural at 9 p.m. Smallville will move to Friday at 8 p.m., leading into a rerun of ANTM. The network has ordered the Juno-esque Parental Discretion Advised, about a young girl who finds her biological parents, for midseason. And Ostroff said that Gossip Girl spinoff Lily is also still a contender for midseason.
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