As five-year-old network The CW hits some growing pains, new president Mark Pedowitz has some work cut out for him.
"Some of the challenges are self-evident," Pedowitz tells TV Guide Magazine. "It's a crowded marketplace. And in our core demographic of women 18-34, we need to grow our audience both inside and outside that core."
Indeed, the network faces more competition than ever for its narrow target audience. Cable outlets like ABC Family and Oxygen are chasing younger women, while networks like Lifetime are refocusing their mission on the slightly older end of that spectrum. MTV is also entering the scripted fray in a big way, encroaching on the CW territory with shows like the upcoming Teen Wolf.
And the competition is taking its toll: While the CW has held on to most of its audience compared to last year (averaging 2 million viewers a week), the network is down 13 percent in its target demo of women age 18-34.
Still, "I don't believe ABC Family or MTV is our competition, and I don't know if they see us as theirs," Pedowitz says. "Our primary focus is not what others are doing but what we want to do."
Meanwhile, The CW continues to search for another reality hit to pair with the aging Top Model. And then there's The CW's problem with repeats. With a limited budget for original programming, The CW must rely on more repeats than the Big Four broadcasters — and when the repeats arrive, viewers flee.
"After day one, I'll be looking at that strategy and figuring out how to enhance the following summer," Pedowitz says. "I don't know how much we can do with this summer, but the goal is to find more programming."
But Pedowitz inherits a network with plenty of upside as well. The CW continues to enjoy the success of popular fare like The Vampire Diaries and America's Next Top Model, 90210, Gossip Girl and Supernatural — all of which this week received early renewals for fall.
"The CW has a great brand and it's staffed by great people," he says. "This is a network filled with promise and potential."
Pedowitz knows a thing or two about the network wars, having spent nearly two decades at ABC — first in business affairs, and more recently as the president of ABC Studios. He's also no stranger to female-centered series, as ABC Studios is the production company behind Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Army Wives.
Since leaving ABC Studios in 2009, Pedowitz has served as a consultant and an independent producer. He formed a new production company, Pine Street Entertainment, in 2010 and has been based at Warner Bros. since then. One of his pilots, Meet Jane (from writer Andi Bushell), is in contention for a series order at Lifetime — which will now be a competitor of Pedowitz's at The CW.
Pedowitz has been expected to take The CW job for weeks, but a deal took time, as the networks are consumed with pilot production this time of year. He replaces Dawn Ostroff, who has served as entertainment president of The CW since its inception in 2006. (Ostroff joined The CW from UPN, which she also ran, after that network and the WB were merged.)
"I hope to bring some of the relationships I've built up in creative community back to the network," Pedowitz says. "I do hope [Everwood creator] Greg Berlanti comes back. And I do hope people like [Lost's] Damon Lindelof would want to do something here."
Although he has spent several years on the creative side, Pedowitz is still seen as more of a business guy. That's where The CW's executive vice president of drama, Thom Sherman, comes in. Sherman — who once worked with Pedowitz at ABC — will also serve as a bridge between the old and new administration at The CW, having been instrumental in this year's primetime development.
Sherman is expected to get a much larger role on the creative side in the coming days. (Pedowitz says he also hopes to keep The CW's COO, John Maatta, in the fold.)
Among the projects in contention for a slot on The CW's fall schedule: The Secret Circle, from the team behind The Vampire Diaries; the Rachel Bilson drama Hart of Dixie, from Josh Schwartz; and the zombie drama Awakening. The CW also still has veteran drama One Tree Hill (likely to return) and rookies Nikita and Hellcats on the bubble.
As for Ostroff, the executive informed The CW owners CBS and Warner Bros. earlier this season that she planned to move to New York with her family after the TV season ended in May.
Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!