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The CW: Targeting Young Women, and Hoping That Hype Starts to Sell

5/16/2008 08:00:00 PM Eastern

The CW may have achieved a place in the millennial Zeitgeist with Gossip Girl, its rabidly followed drama about Upper East Side prep school cruelty. But vast swaths of viewers have not been converted to the show's charms. New episodes of the show average just over 2.5 million viewers. The network would certainly like to see Gossip Girl ratings evolve in line with the show's buzz factor.

The network will attempt to leverage the relative success of Gossip Girl next season, launching another female-centric night of programming on Tuesdays with 90210 and Surviving the Filthy Rich. An update of the iconic Fox program, 90210 will have several Beverly Hills 90210 alumnae in recurring roles or guest turns. Based on the books by young adult author Zoey Dean, Filthy Rich, which has a poor girl teaching rich girls what's really important in life, fits thematically into The CW's canon of girl dramas.

Wednesday nights will become a reality destination for women with America's Next Top Model and Stylista. Reality television's answer to The Devil Wears Prada, Stylista has 11 young women vying for a job under Elle magazine fashion news director Anne Slowey, who can been seen in one clip flinging her coat and handbag Meryl Streep-style onto the desk of a beleaguered contestant.

The buzzword this season: "flow."

"For the first time ever, we have real flow across the schedule," says Dawn Ostroff, president of entertainment at The CW. "We can bring people in on a Monday night at 8 o'clock and really keep them throughout the week. They'll have reason to come to us every single night."

Smallville and Supernatural will air Thursdays. And now that The CW has parted ways with WWE and Friday Night Smackdown, comedies Everybody Hates Chris and The Game and a rerun of Top Model will move to Fridays. Reaper will return during midseason.

The network has handed over Sunday night to Media Rights Capital, which will program a combination of comedies and dramas.

The CW has had trouble attracting and keeping significant portions of viewers. While Gossip Girl premiered strong two seasons ago, the show and almost all of the network's other series were down this season. A significant number of Gossip Girl fans watched the show on the CW Website—too many, as it turned out. The network removed the show from its video player in the hope of driving eyeballs back to the television. This year, in an effort to achieve cross-platform flow, the network will introduce CWebisodes. The hope is that these extras will not only drive viewers to the CW site (rather than the myriad illegal destinations for popular TV) but will also give them a reason to return to their televisions.

Boldest Move: The adult 18-34 push apparently didn't work, so now the network says it is targeting young women.

Best Bet: By all accounts, Gossip Girl is a hit in the making and the network knows it's the crown jewel.

Biggest Risk: No matter how good the shows are, people just aren't finding The CW.

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