EXCLUSIVE: After almost a decade in Hollywood as the head of UPN and its successor broadcast network, CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff may be going back to New York. I hear Ostroff would be leaving the CW at the end of her contract in June to relocate to New York with her kids. While the decision is not final, sources indicate that Ostroff is leaning heavily in that direction and is expected to make it official early next year.
Ostroff is the longest-running sitting broadcast entertainment president. She had been based in New York as SVP and EVP of Lifetime until CBS Corp. boss Leslie Moonves tapped her to run UPN at the beginning of 2002. She relocated to Los Angeles with her kids and her husband Mark. But Mark’s job has kept him bi-coastal, and for the past year, he has been based in New York full-time, commuting to Los Angeles every Friday night and flying back every Monday morning. That has put a strain on the family, forcing the two parents to consider a move. In anticipation of the possible relocation, I hear the Ostroff kids have already interviewed with private schools in New York. Dawn Ostroff has been a key member of Moonves’ senior executive team, and I hear they both would love for her to stay on but the truth is she won’t be able to do her current job of running the CW out of New York.
For the time being, Ostroff is fully focused on the CW’s midseason and development. She will soon be ordering pilots for fall, will oversee the launch of the network’s midseason reality series Shedding for the Wedding and the relocation of Hellcats to Tuesday. She is also expected to be at the CW’s upfront presentation in May. Ostroff would be leaving the CW in a good place. The network, which has been going through some growing pains since its 2006 launch, has hit its stride this year. Season-to-date, the net, co-owned by CBS and Warner Bros., is up 7% in total viewers, the biggest gain for any English-language broadcaster. It is only one of two networks in positive territory year-to-year, along with CBS (up 3%), with new drama Nikita broadening its audience. Additionally, the new online sales initiative introduced by the CW at this year’s upfront market has been deemed a success and may be adopted by other nets. It involves the CW selling “convergence packages,” combining the traditional TV airings of its shows as well as online streaming with full commercial loads. “We’re no longer looking at digital pennies, we have achieved digital dollars,” Ostroff said at the network’s TCA session in July, noting also that, as the first broadcast network born in the digital age, the CW was the first to adopt Twitter and Facebook in its campaigns.
Also at that TCA session, Ostroff ruminated on her longevity in face of the constant revolving door that the top broadcast executive jobs are. “I always say these jobs are rented chairs,” Ostroff said in the context of ABC’s Steve McPherson’s departure. “I’ve been sitting here for 9 years, having seen a lot of people come and go.”