CW Shuffles Its Upfront-Presentation Day for '09

Moves Back to Thursday, Ditches Post-ABC Party Format

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NEW YORK ( -- The CW network will move its upfront presentation to Thursday morning this year, backing away from a 2008 experiment in which its entertainment chief, Dawn Ostroff, tried to talk about the outlet's fall lineup in a party-like atmosphere.

Dawn Ostroff
Dawn Ostroff Credit: John P. Filo
According to a network executive, the CW wants to return to a more traditional presentation, which will be held May 21 at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. "It's important to get people's attention about how everything is going and how the CW has progressed," the executive said.

The CW has in the past had to share a day with a larger broadcaster; last year, it held a party close to Lincoln Center on Tuesday evening so it could attract buyers who were leaving an ABC upfront presentation there. (A private ABC party detained prominent executives from Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA, among others.) At the CW fest, Ms. Ostroff had to talk over the crowd, who munched on various shish-kebab offerings, listened to Maroon 5 and grew puzzled when the entertainment executive appeared alongside a hologram of herself.

Toned down
The annual network upfront presentations, once frothy confabs featuring celebrities and lavish after-parties, have been toned down in the past 18 months -- particularly as the big outlets have had to contend with a writers strike, a souring economy, and ratings erosion sparked by increased penetration of broadband video and DVRs.

The CW's move comes after News Corp.'s Fox boldly said last year it would make its presentation on May 18, a move that could impinge on NBC, which has made the first presentation of upfront week for at least a decade. Because the 2009 upfront week comes close to Memorial Day, the networks are trying to figure out how to avoid crimping media buyers' and marketing executives' three-day weekends.

After facing speculation that its corporate parents, CBS and Time Warner, were dissatisfied with its performance, the CW has made some strides in the 2008-09 season. "Gossip Girl" has increased its audience, as has a veteran program, "One Tree Hill." The network also has been enjoying buzz from its "90210," a remake of the Fox program "Beverly Hills, 90210." The CW is proceeding with a pilot for a remake of "Melrose Place," a "90210" spinoff featuring actress Heather Locklear that enjoyed popularity on Fox in the early to mid-1990s.

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