In Depth

Can CW’s Ostroff Extend the Streak?

After ‘Gossip’ and ‘90210’ Comes ‘Melrose’

It’s unlikely The CW’s Dawn Ostroff will ever forget just how important “Gossip Girl” has been to her success.

Dawn Ostroff

The network’s president of entertainment is constantly reminded of the “Gossip” gang—and not just because the Internet can’t get enough of the sexy soap opera. On the wall right behind her office desk hang multiple posters featuring characters from the show in provocative poses.

“I just loved that campaign so much,” Ms. Ostroff said. “We’ve got all the shows represented throughout the offices, but I have to say, that campaign really made so much noise for us.”

Having used the success of “Gossip” to successfully launch this season’s “90210,” Ms. Ostroff now finds herself deep into development on another batch of potentially buzz-making shows. She took a break from pilot-season hell to talk to TelevisionWeek deputy editor Josef Adalian about the network’s hottest pilot, The CW’s brand … and why it’s still easy being green. An edited transcript follows:

TelevisionWeek: So why do a “Melrose Place” spinoff?

Ms. Ostroff: It’s a given that it’s going to appeal to 18-34 women. Because we’re not going to buy anything that’s not going to have that appeal. When Aaron Spelling did it, it was sort of the softer, lighter side of “Melrose Place.” Our version is going to be a little more gritty. A little more reflective of what that world in West Hollywood, and through Silverlake and that part of town, is about. But when you look at it, it’s about all of these people in their 20s who are at a certain point in their life when they’re trying to get ahead, trying to figure out who they are as adults, and that concept fits perfectly on this network.

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TVWeek: Where do you stand with getting Heather Locklear to be involved in the show?

Ms. Ostroff: You know, we are going to talk to Heather. We’ve talked to her representatives, and we can either do the show with or without, and we have a creative way to do it either way.

TVWeek: Has she indicated she’s interested?

Ms. Ostroff: I think she’s interested, although we don’t know if that means interested in one episode, we don’t know if that means being in a few episodes, we have no idea what that means yet. So we’re just now [talking], because the script is coming in this week. So as soon as we have the script we’ll really be able to talk to her about it.

TVWeek: You say you’re making process breaking through as a brand for young women. What sort of evidence do you have for that, besides ratings?

Ms. Ostroff: We just recently got the Cassandra Report. They do this report every year. (It’s) used by most people in the network business and cable business … (and) over 100 advertiser clients. They go out to 1,000 people, and they ask a bunch of unaided questions, which means it’s not multiple-choice questions, you have to just give them top-of-mind. And when they asked women who are 14 to 34 what their favorite network was, CW was one of the top three. Which is amazing, considering we’ve only been on the air for 2 1/2 years. And then, in the top five shows consistently, they ask what your favorite show is, but they break the people who participate down to two different groups—trendsetters and traditional viewers. And with both traditional viewers and trendsetters, both “Gossip Girl” and “90210” popped up everywhere.

TVWeek: Any plans to change the marketing or on-air feel for The CW?

Ms. Ostroff: I don’t think our on-air look will be different. But we are exploring different slogans for the network. It’s not going to be a slogan that says, that’s what CW is. I think it’s just going to be a slogan that just tells you what our shows are about.

TVWeek: So you’re keeping the green color for The CW?

Ms. Ostroff: Yes. Green is still hot.