EXCLUSIVE: Veteran TV executive-turned-producer Mark Pedowitz is expected to succeed departing CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff as head of the network. Word is that Pedowitz, who spent 19 years at Disney-ABC, including serving as president of ABC Studios for five years, has been identified as the person for the job by the two entities that co-own the CW: CBS and Warner Bros. Additionally, the CW’s EVP drama development, Thom Sherman, is expected to get a larger creative role, possibly also overseeing unscripted programming.
No deal with Pedowitz is in place yet but making one would not be a problem as Pedowitz is already in the Warner Bros fold — his Pine Street Entertainment is based at Warner Bros TV with a first-look deal. Pedowitz is said to be very close with Warner Bros TV Group president Bruce Rosenblum who, along with CBS’ Nancy Tellem, led the search for a new CW topper. The CW is overseen by a four-person board: Rosenblum, Warner Bros Entertainment CEO Barry Meyer, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and Tellem, who kept her CW oversight role when she moved to the Senior Adviser position a year ago, with Rosenblum and Tellem as frontline supervisors. Pedowitz also has had a working relationship with the top CBS brass as under him ABC Studios produced two series for the eye network, Criminal Minds and Ghost Whisperer.
A number of development executives had been rumored for the CW job, which became available after Ostroff decided in December to leave at the end of the season as her family is relocating to New York. But recent speculation was that, with the network’s development team in good shape under Sherman CBS and Warner Bros, were looking for a top executive with strong business credentials to try to reinvent the model for the CW, which has been struggling to establish itself targeting the elusive 18-34 demographic. (There were also rumors that the CW could fold altogether, something that has been talked about almost from the start of the network.) Business acumen is something Pedowitz has in spades as the former longtime head of business affairs for ABC is highly regarded in the industry as a strategic thinker and is credited with crafting the template for the current license-fee agreements between networks and studios.
As for Sherman’s expected promotion, as president of ABC Studios, Pedowitz also had a No. 2 creative executive, first Julia Franz and then Barry Jossen. Pedowitz and Sherman are longtime friends from their years together at ABC where Sherman was head of drama for five years. Then he served as president of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, which was based at ABC Studios (then Touchstone TV) while the studio was run by Pedowitz. The two have something else in common -– they both were in the crosshairs of ABC Entertainment Group president Stephen McPherson, who eventually ousted them. (McPherson himself was pushed out of ABC last summer.)
The process of making a deal with Pedowitz may have been slowed by the fact that he has been on vacation this week. Also, there doesn’t seem to be urgency on either side. At the CW, Ostroff continues to carry on her duties. She is now in the middle of a two-week tour of pre-upfront presentations to advertisers touting the network’s development for next season. Meanwhile, Pedowitz is working on his company’s first pilot, Meet Jane, at Lifetime. While it didn’t make the cut to series last month, the pilot remained in contention and is being retooled.
In an amusing footnote, Pedowitz gave an early thumbs-up to the CW. At a NATPE Q&A session in January 2006, just two days after the surprising announcement of the dissolvement of the WB and UPN and the formation of the CW, he said, “this deal takes two weaker networks and combines them hopefully into a stronger network.”
During his tenure as head of ABC Studios, Pedowitz oversaw a slate of series that included Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters and Ugly Betty, as well as Criminal Minds and Ghost Whisperer. He also expanded ABC Studios’ portfolio into cable and first-run syndication with ABC Family’s Kyle XY, TNT’s Raising the Bar and the syndie Legend of the Seeker. After he exited ABC Studios in January 2009 when McPherson took oversight of the studio, Pedowitz spent a year as senior adviser to Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, before leaving in February of last year to become a producer with a deal at Warner Bros TV. Pedowitz joined ABC in 1991 as SVP business affairs and was promoted to head of the department in 1996.