After month-long negotiations, veteran TV executive-turned-producer Mark Pedowitz today was named president of the CW. The former ABC Studios president and top ABC business affairs executive is starting today. As his title suggests, he is not a direct replacement for CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff, who is leaving after the end of the broadcast season to move back to New York. Pedowitz will oversee programming, sales, marketing, distribution, finance, research and publicity. Those duties are currently split between Ostroff and COO John Maatta. There has been speculation that the new structure, in which Maatta reports to Pedowitz, would lead to Maatta’s departure. Pedowitz today said that “it is my intention for John to remain at the CW. He has done a yeoman’s job in what he’s done in a tough economic environment, and I hope he would stay.” One job Pedowitz will certainly need to fill is head of marketing, as EVP Rick Haskins is set to depart in August.
Meanwhile, as expected, CW’s EVP drama Thom Sherman is poised to get a promotion, probably overseeing all creative aspects of the network, including unscripted programming. I hear an announcement will be coming in the next few days. Pedowitz declined to comment on his plans for Sherman, with whom he has had a long and close relationship going back to their days at ABC. “Tom is an extraordinarily talented executive whom I know very well, and I’m happy to work with him again,” was all Pedowitz said. The setup resembles the one at ABC Studios, where Pedowitz also had a No. 2 creative executive, first Julia Franz and then Barry Jossen.
The CW is a co-venture between CBS and Warner Bros, and Pedowitz will report to a four-person board that oversees the network: Warner Bros TV Group president Bruce Rosenblum, Warner Bros Entertainment CEO Barry Meyer, CBS Corp CEO Leslie Moonves and CBS’ Nancy 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.
Sources tell me that the board identified early into the search for Ostroff’s replacement that they wanted “a bigger-picture senior executive, somebody with strong vision and leadership abilities who can blend business and creative thinking.” That’s when the name of Pedowitz — a highly regarded executive with strong business background — jumped immediately to the top of the list, and going out to him for the job was a unanimous decision. The plan to go for an executive with a dual background also stemmed from the feeling on part of board members that the dual reporting structure — with two CW execs, Ostroff and Maatta, both reporting to them — was not working. Additionally, the co-owners of the network are putting emphasis on broadening CW’s distribution on digital platforms, and Pedowitz’s experience as a pioneer in the space, including the trend-setting deal between ABC and Apple that he brokered, was key.
Pedowitz said he was “surprised and flattered” when he was first approached for the CW gig: “It’s something of a wish fulfillment to finally run a broadcast operation, which is a new challenge to utilize my skill set.” As for the constant speculation that the modestly-rated CW may fold, “I do believe it has a long-term potential,” said Pedowitz, who previously spent two decades at Disney-ABC. “I’ve always been a long-term player, and if I didn’t feel it had that capability, I wouldn’t have taken the challenge.”
Pedowitz is open to broadening CW’s target young female demographic but won’t make it drastically. “You cannot radically change anything as you threaten to alienate the core audience,” he said. For the next few weeks, Pedowitz will work side by side with Ostroff and Maatta as they prepare for the CW’ upfront. “I’ll observe and will comment but will let them do their process.”
For the past year, Pedowitz has run his Warner Bros TV-based Pine Street Entertainment. The company, which has pilot Meet Jane is serious consideration for a series pickup at Lifetime, will remain in existence, but Pedowitz’s role in it will be passive, he said.
This marks a nice vindication for Pedowitz, who was unceremoniously pushed out of his ABC Studios president gig by former ABC topper Steve McPherson a little over a year ago. As one agent put it, “look at Mark now — running a network, while Steve is out of a job.”
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.