Entertainment President of the CW Network
Born in 1960, in Brooklyn, NY; married Mark; children: two.
Addresses: Home —Los Angeles, CA. Office —United Paramount Network, 11800 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.
Intern at radio and television stations in Miami, FL, mid-1970s; reporter and anchor for WINZ, a Miami radio station; secretary, 20th Century-Fox, early 1980s; associate with Kushner Locke, a production company, mid- to late 1980s, and with Michael Jacobs Productions, early 1990s; senior vice president of creative affairs, FOX Television; executive vice president for programming and production, Lifetime Television, 1996-2002; president of entertainment, United Paramount Network, 2002-05, president, 2005-06; entertainment president, the CW network, 2006—.
Television executive Dawn Ostroff joined the growing ranks of women who hold influential positions within the broadcast industry in January of 2006, when it was announced that she would become president for entertainment of the planned merger of two networks, her own United Paramount Network (UPN) and Warner Brothers (WB). A longtime protégé of CBS president Les Moonves, Ostroff was promoted to president of UPN in 2005
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960, Ostroff began her career in the entertainment industry while still in her teens. As a high-schooler in Miami, Florida, she talked her way into her first job, as she told Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles writer Soriya Daniels. "I was already very interested in the media and wound up answering request lines at a local station in Miami. Then I ended up interning at a lot of different TV stations down there." At the age of 18, while interning at a Miami radio station, she convinced her bosses to put her on the air. This was at WINZ, an all-news station. "I worked weekends at the radio station as a reporter and an anchor and I worked the weekdays as an intern at the local CBS television affiliate," she explained to Daniels, but she eventually realized that hard news was not for her. "At 18, I had seen more tragedy, death and despair that most people see in a lifetime," she said in the Jewish Journal interview. "I decided that there might be a happier way for me to earn a living."
Ostroff graduated from college at 19, and moved to Los Angeles two years later. Her first job in Hollywood was as a secretary at 20th Century-Fox, and she went on to a job with Kushner Locke, a production company. After seven years there, she was hired to serve as president of Michael Jacobs Productions, the company that created Boy Meets World, a kids' show that had a successful run on ABC from 1993 to 2000. She returned to 20th Century-Fox, this time as a development executive for its FOX network. She helped turn one of its film-studio properties, a 1992 B-movie called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, into a seven-season-long television series that accrued a devoted cult following.
In October of 1996, Ostroff joined Lifetime Television as executive vice president for programming and production. The cable network, aimed at female viewers, was lagging at the No. 6 spot in the non-broadcast ratings, but Ostroff worked to launch several original series, including Strong Medicine and Any Day Now, that helped it advance to first place a few years later. She also gained a reputation for being able to lure creative writers, producers, and directors to Lifetime, which had earned some industry derision for its melodramatic movies featuring beleaguered female characters.
Ostroff's good track record at Lifetime caught the attention of Les Moonves, the president of CBS. The two actually knew one another from their stints at 20th Century-Fox, back when Moonves headed its television movies and miniseries division. "She was the secretary who read everything," Moonves recalled of Ostroff in an interview with Leslie Ryan for Electronic Media. "She wanted to know about the business. She wanted to know about every piece of material and every writer, and she was clearly very bright." In February of 2002, Moonves hired Ostroff to become the president of entertainment at UPN, which was the television arm of Paramount Studios. Paramount's parent company was Viacom, which was a CBS property.
UPN was a relatively new network compared to CBS Television, on the air only since January of 1995. Seven years down the road, the network was struggling along, best known as the home of the contemporary Star Trek franchise. Critics claimed UPN had no identity as a network, and simply foisted a slew of new sitcoms and dramas every season that targeted widely varying groups of viewers. Ostroff set about changing that, by retooling the programming on a night-by-night basis over the next few years. She succeeded in part by bringing more African-American and Hispanic-focused programming to the network, which she felt was crucial in luring loyal viewers. "We believe that as our country is multicultural, that's what we want this network to reflect," she told Ryan in Electronic Media. "And that's what we feel is not really reflected on television."
Ostroff also greenlighted a few new shows which scored quite well in the ratings, including America's Next Top Model, or ones that were a hit with critics, such as the teen-detective series Veronica Mars. In February of 2005, Ostroff was promoted to president of UPN, making her one of a new generation of female television executives, among them Gail Berman, president of FOX Television; Susan Lyne, president of ABC Entertainment; and Nancy Tellem, a top CBS and Paramount executive.
In January of 2006, UPN announced it would merge with another relatively new network, the WB. The new property would be named the CW, a nod to parent companies CBS and the Warner entertainment empire, and Ostroff was handed the task of programming its new line-up when she was named the CW's president for entertainment. This gave her final say over the entire fall 2006 prime-time lineup.
Ostroff rises at 4 a.m. daily to begin her workday at her home office, which lets her spend time in the morning with her two young children. Typically, her work day does not end until after 7 p.m., and her husband spends half the month in New York City for his job. After exiting the world of broadcast journalism so many years ago, Ostroff remains convinced she made the right career decision. "I can't really say that there's too many days when I wake up and say, 'Ugh, I've got to go to work,' like I felt about school," she told Daniels in the Jewish Journal article. "I'm excited every day and I've been doing it forever."
Broadcasting & Cable, January 30, 2006, p. 6.
Crain's New York Business, November 11, 1999, p. 37.
Electronic Media, January 20, 2003, p. 54.
MediaWeek, April 12, 2004, p. 30.
TelevisionWeek, January 31, 2005, p. 10.
Variety, January 13, 1997, p. 73.
"Balance Paramount to UPN Head Ostroff," Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, http://www. jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=12456 (April 24, 2006).
— Carol Brennan