ABC alum tapped as prexy overseeing all aspects of the network

After interviewing numerous candidates for the top job at the CW during the past six months, CBS and Warner Bros. execs quickly realized what they wanted for the position — and what they didn’t want.

With Dawn Ostroff’s decision to exit as entertainment prexy, the CW partners seized the chance to alter the net’s exec structure, putting creative, business and administrative operations under the purview of a single leader. That made the job search harder — until Mark Pedowitz’s name popped up.

The ABC alum, who was formally named prexy of the CW Television Network on Thursday, was a perfect fit with CBS and WB’s vision for a second-generation CW topper.

Pedowitz brings broad business and strategy experience from his years at ABC, plus he spent five years immersed in creative issues as the prexy of the ABC Studios wing. And just as important as his resume, he comes to the table with strong relationships with the two execs who are the CW’s primary overseers: Warner Bros. TV Group prexy Bruce Rosenblum and CBS senior adviser Nancy Tellem.

“He’s the perfect executive to help us take the network to the next level, a key content driver with vast experience in all disciplines,” Rosenblum said.

For Pedowitz, the opportunity to take the reins of an established net with oversight of programming, marketing, advertising sales, distribution and other key areas was an opportunity he couldn’t resist.

“What appealed to me is that it’s a new challenge,” Pedowitz told Variety. “There’s a great brand here and great people who have really fulfilled the promise of this network. And I think there’s a lot more potential here. … The two partners, Warner Bros. and CBS, are people who understand the broadcast business and the production world. I couldn’t be happier to have the chance to work with people who truly get it.”

Thursday marked Pedowitz’s first day in the C-Dub’s Burbank office, though he’s been reading scripts and otherwise doing due diligence on his new gig for the past few weeks. Pedowitz’s negotiations with the CW’s parent companies heated up in mid-March once it became clear that Ostroff was preparing to ankle at the end of this season after nearly a decade with CW and its UPN predecessor (Daily Variety, March 21).

Since the net’s inception in 2006, Ostroff had run programming while chief operating officer John Maatta spearheaded the business side, with both reporting to the board that oversees CW. Maatta now will report to Pedowitz, as does Thom Sherman, exec veep of drama programming. Sherman, who previously worked with Pedowitz during their respective tenures at the Alphabet, is expected to be formally granted additional programming responsibilities in the near future.

Pedowitz’s appointment marks a new chapter for the CW in that he’s the first leader to come from outside of the net’s WB Network and UPN legacy. When those netlets merged in 2006, the parent companies agreed to split the leadership between UPN alum Ostroff and Maatta, who had been with the WB Network since its formative days in 1993. Pedowitz now brings a fresh pair of eyes to CW, and he is known for his skill as a dealmaker and strategist.

Among the major issues Pedowitz’s will have to deal with first is the void in CW’s marketing department once Rick Haskins, exec veep of marketing and brand strategy, departs the net in August (Daily Variety, April 28).

Pedowitz’s appointment should quiet the persistent rumors that CBS and WB are poised to pull the plug on the net, hatched through the merger of the WB and UPN in fall 2006. Insiders said there’s never been a discussion of folding the tent; both sides have a vested interest in keeping it going. CBS needs the primetime programming for its eight CW O&Os affiliates, while both partners make money from off-net sales and international licensing of the programming they produce for CW.

CW has been in a stable place for the past 18 months or so, after slumping in the 2007 and 2008 calendar years. For this season, C-Dub is averaging about 2 million viewers in primetime, flat from last year, and a 1.0 rating/3 share in its target adults 18-34 demo, according to Nielsen.

CW has made strides this season in squeezing more advertising coin out of online plays of its primetime programming on its website. It makes the bulk of its slate available online with the same volume of advertising as the shows carry on the air and has been successful in pitching online and on-air time to advertisers as a single ad buy. Pedowitz said he’s noted the net’s leadership in the digital arena.

“Our needs are greater in the digital world because of our (18-34) audience,” Pedowitz said. “There are great growth opportunities there. Our digital convergence strategy is light years ahead of the other nets, and it’s born out of necessity, which breeds great innovation.”

Pedowitz had been working as a producer on the Warner Bros. lot after exiting the Disney-ABC TV Group fold in early 2010. There was speculation from the moment he relocated to the studio’s lot that he would eventually wind up in a WB-related exec role.

He takes over the CW after a nearly 20-year run at ABC, starting out in 1991 in business affairs and capped by his 2004-09 stint as ABC Studios prexy. Although he does not come from a traditional creative background, Pedowitz developed strong relationships over his years at ABC with a range of scribes and producers.

“Mark is a rare breed — a chief who actually trusts the creators he works with no matter what insanity pours from their minds,” said Damon Lindelof, co-creator and exec producer of “Lost,” who worked closely with Pedowitz on the ABC Studios series. “His faith and support were invaluable in completing the six-year journey that was ‘Lost.’ “

Producer Mark Gordon, who has long been based at ABC Studios, credited Pedowitz with being a good listener and a great champion of creatives. Gordon said he was impressed by how Pedowitz handled the learning curve when he shifted from the ABC network to the studio side.

“He’s a great collaborator,” Gordon said. “He listens. He has strong opinions but he’s also very good about allowing people who are supervising the shows to do what they do. There’s real give-and-take with Mark.”

Gordon said he also admired Pedowitz’s decision to work in the trenches after he left ABC. The exec’s Pine Street Entertainment banner has a few projects set up around town, including a pilot in contention at Lifetime.

“With Mark there was none of this ‘I’m a senior-level executive — I’m not going to go out and schlep my wares,’?” Gordon said. “He didn’t put together a big (staff) entourage. He just went out there and did it. But that’s Mark. He just embraces the process and always wants to learn as much as he can.”

In making the official announcement of Pedowitz’s appointment, Tellem saluted Ostroff for her role in honing the network into an alternative to the Big Four with a laser focus on young femmes.

“Since its inception, Dawn and her team have built the CW into a brand-name destination for young female viewers with franchise shows as well as forward-thinking marketing campaigns,” she said.

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