TCA: CW’s Ostroff Loves Spies, Scandals; Now Looking for Superheroes

Talks “Nikita” and “Hellcats” and dotcom — but not outgoing ABC President Steve McPherson

Last Updated: August 5, 2011 @ 3:36 PM

While it probably wasn’t a boon for U.S. national security, the Anna Chapman spy scandal has worked marketing wonders for entertainment companies looking to launch espionage-themed action dramas based on female stars (see “Salt’s” $36 million box office opening last weekend).

“We liked the idea that this show was set in the world of spies, but we didn’t know we were going to be quite as current as we are,” said CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff, noting to a TCA audience Wednesday the cache the real-life headlines give the network’s new action drama “Nikita.”

Produced by McG and starring Maggie Q, “Nikita” would seem to have the wind at its back anyway, debuting this fall on Thursdays, positioned behind the show that became the CW’s No. 1 program in only one season, “Vampire Diaries.”

With "Nikita" getting that kind of lead-in help, it is clearly commanding the bulk of network hopes and resources going into the fall.

Along with new cheerleading-themed drama “Hellcats,” “Nikita” will get the lion's share of the CW’s marketing dollars in the coming months, Ostroff noted, with the recently launched “Plain Jane” and “18 to Life” getting what they get largely on their own.

“We’re a smaller network, and you have to pick your priorities,” Ostroff said. “So for us, it’s going to be ‘Nikita’ and ‘Hellcats.”

Addressing TCA for the ninth straight year – her UPN tenure melding into her current position at the CW five years ago – Ostroff is now the dean of network entertainment presidents.

She resisted numerous overtures to discuss the buzz topic of rival colleague Steve McPherson at ABC – “I wish Steve all the best,” was all she’d say — instead diverting the wide-ranging conversation to the CW’s online ad push.

Now delivering full commercial loads for its programming streams on CW.com, Ostroff said, the new online programming strategy is being “wholly embraced" by the ad community.

“We’re not longer looking at digital pennies,” she added. “We’ve achieved digital dollars … I think this may become the blueprint for the rest of the industry. We've all been trying to figure it out, but this may be the answer."

Asked after the session how actually close to dollars the typical CW online CPM (cost per thousand) price was approaching, Ostroff didn’t want to talk specifics … which was OK with the TCA’s largely consumer-serving constituency, many of whom were more concerned with what CW brass planned to do to replace the venerable DC Comics-based “Smallville,” which is now entering its final season.

Ostroff said the network was looking to develop another superhero/DC-themed show, but it’s proving tricky.

“We not only have to come up with the right property,” she said, noting the difficulty the network has experienced adapting such concepts as “Aquaman.” “We have to be able to execute it. The expectations are always very high for these things.”

In the broader sense, the often ratings-deprived CW itself is probably defying some expectations merely by being around for its fifth TCA.

"We are well positioned for growth," Ostroff said. "We now have original programming across the fall schedule, on every night, in every time period."

Previously: 'Dexter' Faces the Winter of Season 5