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

Mar 1, 2009  •  Post A Comment

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.


  1. Ms. Tellem continues to spout the standard line and refer to “series as successful as ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘90210’… really? Because the last time I checked numbers, the #1 and #2 scripted dramas on CW are SMALLVILLE and SUPERNATURAL respectively. According to Nielsen, Supernatural showed the largest yearly increases among ALL entertainment series that returned for the 2008-09 season. That means that while other series on the big networks were declining or barely staying the same, Supernatural had an unprecedented increase in viewership, gaining 25-30% MORE viewers. Seriously, would it kill the head honchos to give some recognition to their series that truly deserve it? But that’s ok, I’m grateful that at least they were wise enough to offer up an early renewal for next season.

  2. Liana: Maybe it’s because both Smallville and Supernatural started on the old WB network. Gossip Girl and 90210 are CW’s. CW execs seem to be more attached to the shows they launched.

  3. Read the other articles related to the CW. They’re discussing profitability of shows. They claim 90210 is already generating $30MM in profits. I don’t necessarily believe those numbers, but regardless, that’s what they’re going for in this article…

  4. Sorry Liana, I meant to address the message to you, not use your name!!!

  5. Supernatural has been on The CW longer than it was on The WB, and it, as well as Supernatural, Everybody Hates Chris, and The Game (yet another CW launch show) are treated as if they’re carrying the plague. The fact that urban-related shows that was aimed towards the lifeblood of the audience, namely those urbanites in big cities across the country, are history is bad.
    However, when two shows aimed towards blacks is also aimed towards the so-called female 18-34 demographic the network currently caters to are also canceled (Girlfriends was canceled last year and The Game is canceled this year), that not only screams of hypocrisy, but also racism. Still wondering how a network that ignores the bulk of the male demographic, the urban demographics, and any show not containing pretty rich kids with problems and still considered a legitimate network.
    To quote a racist, pill-popping leader of a political party, I want them to fail. I want them to fail so badly that they see the error of their ways.

  6. After reading this article… Wow, do these retards get it? Targeting a demo that has abandoned live television for the most part for the Internet, YouTube, breathing, etc… No wonder the dipshits at The Church of Tisch don’t get it, (sorry for the language) with its’ Chicago CBS station at the bottom of the ratings with practically no HD over-the-air signal, while a former exec got a marble bathroom and made their employees pay for his lavish lunches. The CW is a “success”! Let’s give Dawn Ostroff her own bathroom and throw her a lunch party! If you’re a CW employee, you’re picking up the tab. Time to pass around the collection plate, Jennie Garth needs a new hat!
    And what about Sundays? Nobody is watching your network on Sunday, you dumbasses.
    And don’t worry about African-Americans on The CW. As long as they have Tyra Banks’ schuck and jive show on (ANTM), they’re well covered. Nobody does a better job of exploiting racial
    stereotypes on the network than Ms. Banks. Meanwhile, “Girlfriends” gets canceled with little notice.
    Most of the broadcast networks and Madison Avenue have abandoned the male audience, the African-American audience, and adults over 50 to target a fickle demo. No wonder no one watches network TV anymore. Just like a Chicago politician, you wonder why these idiot executives keep their jobs… Let’s hope the major nets don’t come to Washington with their hand asking for a bailout… Do something right for a change and chop it off when they ask!

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