Ostroff Meditates on Enticing Tech-savvy 18-34 Demo to the CW

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Want to look inside Dawn Ostroff's head? Mostly it's busy with thoughts of pilots, scheduling, marketing and the TV upfront, but for a small window at the beginning of each day it is very quiet.

Close friend Dana Walden, president of 20th Century Fox Television, remembered: "When we worked together, I was telling her how stressed out I was and the next day arrived a basket of meditation tapes, and when I called her to say thanks, she confided that every morning she starts out her day meditating. I thought it was really interesting and unusual Zen activity for such a driven busy executive."

Ms. Ostroff, still officially entertainment president at CBS Corp.'s UPN, might well take a deep breath. She's in the midst of making TV history by merging two broadcast networks, UPN and the WB. Ms. Ostroff was handed the same title at new network the CW, without debate by top brass at CBS and Time Warner, which will own the venture 50/50. Her peer at the WB, David Janollari, announced his exit in January.

Beyond the tough task of selecting shows-already The WB's "Charmed" won't make the cut-Ms. Ostroff is creating a new brand.

POTENT SUPPORT
"Everyone has a lot of fire in their bellies," said Ms. Ostroff, 45, "and we have the backing of Time Warner and CBS Corp."

Ms. Ostroff has intimate knowledge of the young adult psyche-"Things have changed so much since [the WB's] `Felicity' was on the air ... Fame and opportunity are really important to them. Technology has really taken over."

"Our first priority is making the network a real home for this demographic," Ms. Ostroff said. When asked to describe a typical viewer, she said: "The 18-34s are people who like to try a new product, they go to the movies the first night they open, they're into pop culture. They are not risk takers, but they are open to new things."

Among the shows under consideration are the obvious top performers from both schedules: "Everybody Hates Chris," "Gilmore Girls," "Beauty & the Geek" and "America's Next Top Model."

This week, Ms. Ostroff is unveiling her drama-oriented pilot selections to advertisers and agencies. She explained why she green-lit a pilot called "Aquaman": "It's based on the Marvel Comic. [The WB's] `Smallville' had an Aquaman character, and we saw a real [ratings] spike. I got the script a few weeks ago, and I'm so excited that Ving Rhames is one of the leads."

"Palm Springs" is a soap from Kevin Williamson. Two other pilot pickups include "Split Decision," based on a 15-year-old-girl in high school in the vein of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie "Sliding Doors," and "Runaway," about a man, falsely accused of murder, and his family, who's been caught up in his fugitive status.

Asked what her high point at UPN was, Ms. Ostroff responded that it was the satisfaction of turning around the perception of the network. She cited particular pleasure in seeing "America's Next Top Model" beat out its bigger broadcast brethren on occasion in the 18-34 demo and finding a show that was as big with the advertisers as the critics. She's talking, of course, about "Every-body Hates Chris."

And how will we see the Dawn Ostroff imprimatur on the CW? "It will have a flow to the schedule," she said. "We can have an audience that flows from night to night. The shows are all there, there's a built-in following."

Now she gets to create the network from scratch. That's worthy of deep thought.

Dawn Ostroff

The CW

What's your all-time favorite TV show? "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" or "All in the Family."

Hobbies? My children, aged 2, 6, 12 and 16.

How did you end up airing "Chaotic," the Britney Spears documentary? Her agent called and said they had footage, and we bid and got it. It turned out to be a tumultuous time in her life. We didn't know that when we bought it.

Is there going to be a sequel? Not that I've heard.
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