Dawn’s breaking at UPN

Exec to replace Nunan, symbolically Valentine

It’s the Dawn of a new day at UPN.

CBS Television topper Leslie Moonves, who snagged oversight of the Viacom weblet last month, has tapped Lifetime programming exec VP Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff to serve as UPN entertainment prexy. Her hiring could be announced as early as today.

Tarnofsky-Ostroff’s hiring means that four of the Big Six entertainment prexys will be women — the first time that post has been dominated by female execs. The new UPN topper joins CBS Entertainment prexy Nancy Tellem, Fox Entertainment chief Gail Berman and newly tapped ABC Entertainment head Susan Lyne.

Working with Lifetime prexy-CEO Carole Black, Tarnofsky-Ostroff helped solidify the femme-centered net’s status as basic cable’s most-watched web by building a powerful lineup of Sunday dramas with “Any Day Now,” “Strong Medicine” and “The Division.” Tarnofky-Ostroff also helped build Lifetime’s slate of original pics, which ranks as one of basic cable’s top franchises.

Tarnofsky-Ostroff will report directly to Moonves. She’s a direct replacement for Tom Nunan, who ankled UPN last year; symbolically, she also takes the place of recently departed UPN CEO Dean Valentine.

Closing gender gap

While UPN has recently been seen as the testosterone net, its focus has broadened somewhat with the acquisition of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And while Moonves wasn’t talking — and CBS/UPN reps were declining comment — it can be argued that good programming knows no gender.

Nevertheless, until midday Tuesday, few Hollywood insiders were focusing on Tarnofsky-Ostroff as a candidate for the UPN gig, with Moonves playing his cards close to the vest, as he does with most major decisions. Most guessing had centered on Eye and Viacom insiders or on the usual suspects for exec gigs, such as former ATG topper Eric Tannenbaum.

Even yesterday, some insiders figured Tarnofsky-Ostroff wouldn’t take the gig because she’s currently based in New York. It’s unclear if she’ll move west or commute between Gotham and UPN’s Brentwood headquarters.

Both Lyne and NBC Entertainment chief Jeff Zucker shuttle between the two cities.

Tarnofsky-Ostroff has been at Lifetime since October 1996. Before that, she worked at 20th Century Fox TV as senior VP of creative affairs.