CBS takes firm control of UPN in quest for profit

By Published on .

As CBS installed a new president of entertainment at UPN, it also moved to assert control over ad sales and marketing. The changes are all part of an effort to turn around the money-losing Viacom network.

CBS President-CEO Les Moonves, who recently added oversight of UPN to his duties, hired Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff as entertainment president; she had been exec VP-entertainment at Lifetime, the women's network that is the top-rated cable channel in prime time.

Other CBS executives are also taking oversight roles at the network. UPN Exec VP-Advertising Mike Mandelker will now report to Joe Abruzzese, president of advertising sales for CBS. George Schweitzer, exec VP-marketing at CBS, and David Poltrack, exec VP-planning and research, will also oversee their UPN counterparts.

The changes are seen in part as a way to encourage cross-selling among the two networks.

In addition, UPN's media account is expected to shift from Initiative, Los Angeles, to Carat USA, New York, which handles media for CBS. Mr. Schweitzer said no discussions on that have taken place.

brand identity

Mr. Schweitzer declined to discuss positioning plans for UPN, saying, "It can't come until we have our programming philosophy and that's what [Ms. Tarnosfsky-Ostroff] is here to do."

Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff's challenge is to sharpen UPN's image among viewers in order to grow ratings and, ultimately, ad sales. Although Mr. Moonves is known to get deeply involved in programming decisions, he has said that his new hire will be in charge at UPN.

"Our goal is to start to build on the audience we have and then figure out how we can string the nights together, so that we really have a great promotional base so each night promotes into the next night," she said .

UPN's ratings have risen this year, up almost 11% in the key adult 18 to 49 demographic, 8% in total viewers and 7% in overall households, according to Nielsen Media Research. But the network-unlike main competitor, WB, which skews to young women-is a programming mishmash of urban comedies, young, male shows such as new Star Trek hit "Enterprise," and acquisition "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

UPN is projected to have lost $50 million last year.

In a related move, UPN is expected to stop working with the talent agency Endeavor. The agency had struck a product-placement deal for UPN with OMD USA, New York.

It isn't clear who will replace Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff at Lifetime. There is no obvious internal candidate.

Most Popular
In this article: