In Depth

Q&A: CBS, Warner Bosses Talk About Their Baby, The CW

The CW is sticking with the script.

That’s the word from CBS Corp.’s Nancy Tellem and Warner Bros.’ Bruce Rosenblum, the executives responsible for overseeing their companies’ interests in the 3-year-old network. While broadcasters such as NBC and MyNetworkTV have begun trimming the amount of time they devote to first-run scripted shows, The CW is devoting the bulk of its energies to building a network based on original hourlong dramas.

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In an interview with TelevisionWeek deputy editor Josef Adalian, Mr. Rosenblum and Ms. Tellem discuss that strategy, along with their opinion of CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff, the future of Sunday nights on the network. An edited transcript follows:

TelevisionWeek: You’re building a network based on scripted programming at a time when others are pulling away from scripted, first-run shows. NBC is putting Jay Leno in primetime. MyNetworkTV is moving toward syndicated shows.

Mr. Rosenblum: I don’t hear Steve McPherson talking about pulling away, I don’t hear Nina Tassler and [CBS chief] Les [Moonves] and Nancy talking about pulling away. I only hear Jeff Zucker talking about pulling away.

Ms. Tellem: Yeah, we are committed to scripted programming. I think if you look, whether it’s “Gossip Girl,” “90210” or “One Tree Hill,” I would even posit to say that our series are worth far more (than unscripted shows). I suspect that NBC might be taking a different position if they had on their schedule a series as successful as we’ve enjoyed with “Gossip Girl” or “90210.”

Mr. Rosenblum: From a combination standpoint of the studio and the network, it’s not less risk to go all nonscripted, because we have found a business model and a niche with our women, 18-34 targeted dramas that work extremely well internationally, that work well on DVD, that work well in the digital marketplace, that have a strong advertiser appeal in their initial exhibition on the broadcast network, that work for both CBS and Warner Bros. As Nancy said, we shouldn’t get caught in the fog of, NBC didn’t have a lot of success the last couple of years. Their decisions were proper for NBC, but I wouldn’t paint the whole broadcast network business with that brush.

TVWeek: There’s been talk that maybe CW gives Sunday back to affiliates. Will that happen?

Mr. Rosenblum: No. Sunday is, from an audience standpoint and from an advertiser’s standpoint, an important night, and we as a network will work over the next handful of development seasons to continue to build a viable and profitable lineup of programming for Sunday nights for both ourselves and our affiliates.

TVWeek: Can we assume that Dawn Ostroff will be staying on as president of The CW for the long-term future?

Ms. Tellem: We are really pleased with what Dawn is doing. She has done an extraordinary job of building this network and we support her in all that she has done.

Mr. Rosenblum: I completely agree with Nancy.

TVWeek: You sometimes hear reports of tension between CBS and Warner Bros. over The CW, as well as other issues. True?

Mr. Rosenblum: Honestly there is not a level of tension between any of the executives at CBS and Warner Bros. We have more than 20 years of experiences together, between the four of us, and we have managed at every step of the way to find far, far more common ground than (not). In those handful of instances where there is a minor disagreement, it gets resolved really quickly. But the common belief in building the brand of The CW, building the network together, building content assets that are valuable for both of our companies, far outweighs any separate vision we might have.

Ms. Tellem: You really can’t underestimate a 20-year friendship. That’s quite unusual in this business, but, when we’ve kind of grown up together, whether it be [Warner Bros.’] Barry [Meyer] or Leslie or Bruce or myself, any issues that do come up really are handled on a very different level. And so, I do concur with Bruce. I mean, our priorities are the same, our support of the network, it is totally consistent. And, you know, there will be differences. But I’ve really not encountered anything that we haven’t been able to resolve.

TVWeek: Speaking of resolve, what’s the status of the lawsuit you filed against CBS over financing for “Two and a Half Men”?

Mr. Rosenblum: I think it’s very reasonable to expect that we will find a lot of common ground to resolve that thing in the relatively near future.