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A new day Dawn-ing for UPN

Jan 28, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Looking to build upon UPN’s unexpected double-digit growth spurts in the key female demographic ratings, the network last week named Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff, a senior programming executive at Lifetime Television, as president of UPN Entertainment.
The first major management move since CBS Television Network President and CEO Leslie Moonves took oversight of UPN on Jan. 1, the addition of Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff, 41, is seen as an effort to break the perception of UPN as a testosterone-driven network and to broaden its gender appeal.
Nevertheless, Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff, who begins at UPN on Feb. 14, insisted her conversations with Mr. Moonves had not centered on the development of new “female-oriented” scripted series and focused only on ways to build upon UPN’s ratings growth this season.
“I think the goal is to take what is working at UPN right now, where they are currently growing across their schedule and have made broad rating gains in both the male and female demographics this season,” Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff said.
UPN’s biggest year-to-year growth this season has come in several key female demographic measures. For the season to date, UPN is up 27 percent in women 18 to 34 (to a 1.9 rating/5 share), 25 percent in females 12 to 34 (2.0/6) and 19 percent in women 18 to 49 (1.9/5). This season, UPN and CBS are the only broadcast networks to exhibit broad double-digit percentage ratings increases in all of the key adult demographics.
Still, with the 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) Thursday run of “WWF Smackdown!” accounting for the only evening of year-to-year ratings declines, some Hollywood sources wonder whether Mr. Moonves and Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff will eventually replace the block with scripted series. The World Wrestling Federation is paying a straight fee for a time-buy of Thursday evening, so the network is not incurring any financial liability, but “Smackdown’s” ratings decline may diminish its promotional clout for other prime-time series. Keeping “Smackdown!” intact also somewhat protects Viacom’s $60 million investment in the publicly traded wrestling organization.
“I’m not at the network yet, so there is no set agenda on any changes in programming direction at UPN,” Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff said. “I’ve only talked to Les about how [we] can continue to broaden viewership and build off some strong evenings.” UPN has specifically scored a broad cross-gender beachhead with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Tuesday and with the “Star Trek” prequel “Enterprise” on Wednesday.
“Each night is different, and the goal is to take from what those shows are drawing in terms of both demos and to springboard off of that,” she said. “The only other thing we’ve touched upon is bringing UPN consistency in its brand identity and making sure it is a separate identity” from that of CBS.
As executive vice president of programming at Lifetime, Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff played an instrumental role in turning it into the top-rated cable network during the past two quarters by developing original signature series such as “The Division,” “Any Day Now” and “Strong Medicine.” In her new post, Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff will be responsible for all creative aspects of UPN’s operations, including development, current programming, specials, movies and miniseries. She will also work closely with all other areas of UPN. She will be headquartered in Los Angeles and will report directly to Mr. Moonves.