E!, CW close to naming successors

With Harbert out and Ostroff leaving, nets ready to make new hires

Two of the most high-profile exec vacancies in TV are about to be filled.

Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, is intensifying her search for a new leader at E! Meanwhile, Warner Bros. and CBS are said to be close to settling on a successor for Dawn Ostroff as CW programming chief.

The need for a new leader at E! became necessary several months ago when the Comcast merger became official and longtime E! boss Ted Harbert was moved to New York to become topper of NBC Broadcasting.

Hammer, who recently took part in a company town hall meeting with CEO Steve Burke, has been actively reaching out to the TV community to find a replacement for Harbert, who helped make E! one of NBCUniversal’s most profitable entities.

Among the names being floated are JoAnn Alfano, who recently left femme-skewing Lifetime as head of development. She has a long history with NBC, having been an exec there and a producer on “30 Rock.” The female-driven programs on E! would seem a good fit for Alfano.

Andrea Wong, Alfano’s boss at Lifetime, could also make sense. Since E! is so reality heavy, Wong could bring her experience over to the cabler after being an exec VP of alternative at ABC prior to arriving at Lifetime. However, her leadership at Lifetime at a time when the net suffered serious ratings erosion could hurt her chances.

Hammer might also opt to go in-house, where Suzanne Kolb could be a strong choice. Kolb is the president of E! Online and Style, as well as head of news and marketing. There’s also exec VP of programming Lisa Berger and Cyndi McClellan, exec VP of program strategy and research. All three have been instrumental — with the help of the Kardashian family, of course — in seeing the fortunes of E! improve over the past several years.

One of Hammer’s mandates is to bring scripted programming to E!, which has long relied on a strict reality diet, and sharpen the E! brand.

Also, Hammer might be considering execs on the syndication front from shows such as “Access Hollywood,” as well as a wide range of programming execs from the Big Four networks. Several broadcast execs around town have been asked about their interest in the job.

At CW, Ostroff made it clear some months ago to her bosses at the net’s parent companies that after nearly 10 years with UPN and CW, she’s ready for a change and looking to reunite with her family in New York after being bicoastal for several years.

It’s not immediately clear who is the leading candidate for the gig, but what is clear is that the exec will be announced sooner rather than later — well before CW’s upfront on May 19 — in order to give the person a chance to have a hand in selecting this year’s series orders and to work with Ostroff on other transitional issues.

Reps for E!, CW, CBS and Warner Bros. declined to comment.