Leighton Meester by Giovanni Rufino/The CW, Dawn Ostroff by Jesse Grant/WireImage.com
This week will be a big one in the short life of the CW. Gossip Girl
returns with the first of five new episodes and the backing of its provocative promo campaign built around the show's "OMFG" moments. The campaign is getting the freshman series some attention. But will it get the ratings that the CW SRSLY needs? The Biz talked with network president Dawn Ostroff about how she's banking on GG
to turn the network's fortunes around. TVGuide.com: There was a lot of promise when the CW was created out of the most popular shows of the WB and UPN. Are you surprised that it hasn't been easier to get it to work from a ratings standpoint?
We had this huge challenge of migrating people. It was asking the consumer in every market to change channels, whether they were watching UPN or the WB. We put together the best of the two networks, but at the end of the day, people said, "What is this network?" It was like a blended family. What we want to try to do is create our own identity for the CW now that we have another year under our belt, and really identify what the CW is. TVGuide.com: You're building the CW's image around Gossip Girl, but it hasn't been a big hit by traditional standards.
I think the word there is "traditional." Our audience tends to be a little bit younger and they are more open to consuming their content and new media in different ways. I think when you look at a show like Gossip Girl
, you hear about it, you see it, there are rabid fans everywhere who can't consume enough of the show, the music, the wardrobe and it's all just [about] how you reach them. A hit takes on a different meaning and sort of a different way of reaching the viewer. I know that this show is a hit and I know it's going to be a bigger hit. It's interesting to hear that Gossip Girl
is the No. 1 show downloaded on iTunes. The streaming numbers are quite large. TVGuide.com: But you want higher ratings on the CW. Isn't that why you're not making the new episodes available online? [See: Gossip Girl Returns... But Not on the Web]
We've always given fans of the show a lot of online content and we plan on actually adding to that over the next few weeks. While streaming won't be a part of that, there will be more new short-form content available to Gossip Girl
fans. We are, however, going to experiment and see if we can grow the ratings by keeping these five episodes exclusive to our airwaves. TVGuide.com: You have two corporate parents, Time Warner and CBS Corp., who believed the CW would be profitable right away. Do you think they'll give the network the time it needs to grow?
They've been very patient and as far as I know they will continue to be patient. I think they are pleased in what they see in terms of Gossip Girl
, in terms of it really helping us establish a brand and a lot of buzz for this new network. Gossip Girl
is the poster child and it will be joined by a number of shows that are in that milieu. As you know, we're developing a new version of Beverly Hills, 90210
.... TVGuide.com: Will that be ready for this fall?
We're working on it. I can't say for sure that it will be. I think we need a couple of shows that are going to be about the CW - not about what the WB was, not about what UPN was. Once we get a couple of those pieces in place, people will know what the network is and the network will start to establish its own following. TVGuide.com: What are some of the other shows you have in the pipeline that would work to that end?
Ostroff: How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls
is also based on a series of Alloy books, the same publisher as Gossip Girl
. It's about a young woman in her twenties who winds up tutoring and trying to wrangle these billionaire 16-year-old twin girls being raised by their grandmother. Imagine the Olson twins 10 years ago or Paris and Nicole 10 years ago, totally running amok. The other one is Golden Hour, executive-produced by Simon Fuller
, his first scripted show in the States. It's a medical show seen through the eyes of two young women, one who has her first day on the job as an EMT. TVGuide.com: Would you say you're out of the comedy business?
We are looking at shows that are going to be game-changers for this network and I think it's harder and harder to find a comedy that's a game-changer. If there's something that we feel can really make a difference here, we will make it. Hour dramas and reality have a better chance of breaking out for us. TVGuide.com: So what will the CW brand stand for going forward?
To a certain degree, female. Quality. Doing something that feels different, that feels special, that makes noise, that gets attention and has a youthful bent - which doesn't mean kids necessarily. It means contemporary.