Rick Haskins’ new gig at CW is a sign that for the young-skewing net, online activity is becoming just as important as traditional TV viewing.
The opportunity to spearhead a major push to produce digital content for CW’s various platforms was the incentive Haskins needed to change his mind about stepping down as the network’s marketing chief. He initially planned to depart in late summer, but after much persuading from new CW topper Mark Pedowitz, Haskins has reupped with the network with the new title of exec veep of marketing and digital programs. His expanded responsibilities include overseeing the production of a host of digital content for the net — both material derived from its existing TV shows and wholly original fare.
“Rick Haskins is hands down one of the best marketing executives in our industry,” Pedowitz said. “Rick is also our foremost authority in the digital space, helping us extend the CW’s presence across different digital platforms, so it only makes sense that he oversee our foray into creating and producing original CW content for online, mobile and social media.”
Haskins said the time is right for CW to invest big in digital originals because the net’s young-adult aud spends so much time on the Web and social-media platforms.
“From a marketing perspective, on-air and online are equally important to us,” Haskins told Variety. “I’m seeing those two worlds merge for us. It’s a great time for us to be looking at this opportunity.”
Haskins said he’s looking at both longform and shortform content. He sees wide-ranging opportunities to deliver digital entertainment to the nearly 4 million users who visit CW’s website and its 41 million Facebook fans. He sees it as a prime platform for drawing advertising support and extending the overall reach of the network’s brand.
“These will be programs that all have a digital twist to them, even if they tie in with what we’re already doing with dramas and unscripted programming,” Haskins said.
“There’s a lot of fun, really exciting new technologies out there that we’re looking to play with. It’s going to be interesting to be able to combine new technologies with great storytelling. One of the things we’ve learned how to do well within the CW ecosystem is how to move people from on-air to online to social media and back to on-air. This new programming will only enhance that experience.”
Haskins will work with CW creative chief Thom Sherman and other development execs on the digital content. He plans to cast a wide net for up-and-coming creative talents to field material for the digital initiatives. He expects to get moving on the first projects in January.
CW has recently cut licensing deals with Hulu Plus and Netflix that have expanded its online footprint well beyond its CWTV.com domain. The programs have been available for only a short time, but anecdotal info indicates that they are reaching viewers that aren’t watching CW shows the old-fashioned way. On TV, the CW’s highest-rated program is “The Vampire Diaries.” But on Hulu Plus, its biggest draw has been the frosh Rachel Bilson dramedy “Hart of Dixie.”
Haskins has been CW’s tubthumper-in-chief since the net was formed in 2006 out of the merger of the WB Network and UPN.