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Published: August 16, 2010 at 03:25 AM GMT
Last Updated: August 9, 2010 at 03:25 AM GMT
Great big bombs were dropping throughout the television industry yesterday: Steve McPherson retained a powerhouse legal team to handle issues surrounding his abrupt resignation from ABC! ABC Family chief Paul Lee was rumored to be ABC's only choice in replacing McPherson! Fox announced Ellen DeGeneres will not be returning to American Idol! Jennifer Lopez was rumored to be replacing her! But it was relatively quiet at the summer 2010 Television Critics Association tour. There was no real excitement throughout the day, which included sessions for several series on Showtime and The CW. But a press conference with The CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff proved more informative than usual.
In addition to the usual cheerleading on behalf of her shows, Ostroff used her appearance at TCA to talk about the way The CW will now program its highly successful companion Web site. She spoke in detail about the network's new online sales initiative, unveiled just a couple of months ago, that seeks to facilitate accurate measurement of all viewers of CW shows across multiple platforms.
"In essence," she explained, "we are putting full commercial loads within full episodes [of CW shows] streamed on cwtv.com, the only place you can legally get full episodes for free." Users cannot fast-forward through those commercials, she noted.
"Where the real innovation comes in is, we've developed a system with our new video player in the way that we now measure and sell online demographics that has been wholly embraced by the advertising community and has turned our online episodes into a significant revenue stream for us. So we are no longer looking at digital pennies. We've achieved digital dollars."
Asked how difficult it is for The CW to get a full grasp on how many people are actually watching its shows, Ostroff replied, "We always say our young viewers are the first to migrate to other platforms. More and more of them are migrating to DVR, or to streaming, or to iTunes. Needless to say, there needs to be a way in which we can measure all of them. What we have done with our new sales initiative is the first step for us to be able to start to account for the people who are streaming our episodes."
"The days of waking up and looking at the overnight ratings just are gone, especially for the younger demographic," Ostroff declared.
Reporters wondered: Will the placement within CW programs online of a full commercial load that cannot be fast-forwarded through prompt people to return to watching television (and using their DVRs)? After all, one of the reasons they watch online is to enjoy television shows without commercials. "We have learned that a lot of people would rather be watching TV," Ostroff revealed. "They watch online because it's convenient for them, particularly young people if they didn't TiVo it or they didn't watch it live. We're fine if we drive them back to the TV set."
"Don't you fear every network's going to copy you and ruin the online viewing experience?" asked one nervous young online reporter, fearful that his world was about to change.
"No, I think that this may become a blueprint for the rest of the industry," Ostroff said.
"That's what I'm afraid of," the reporter sighed.
Reminded that younger users are savvy enough to know where to go to illegally download shows, Ostroff was asked if The CW is especially vulnerable, given that it targets a young demographic.
"It has been a problem all along," she said. "We fight it all the time. I think every network deals with it on a day-to-day basis and it is growing. As soon as we find a site or we find someplace that [a show is] on, the studios contact them. They are the owners of the content. They try and get all content off of the site or shut the site down, but there's only so much that we can do. As soon as you get something off, it pops up somewhere else. I mean, we all deal with that, as you know, the music industry as well as the television industry."
When McPherson exited ABC early this week, Ostroff became the longest-sitting network president in broadcast television (that's five years at The CW and four at UPN before that). This distinction did not go unnoticed by the press. "I always say it's a rented seat," Ostroff said of the top network programming position. "I've seen a lot of people come and go from these jobs. Everybody comes and goes for different reasons."
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