The Seed For Conde Nast Online Was Planted Somewhere Else

Conde Nast Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff comes from interesting places. Previously, she was a programming executive at Lifetime and after that headed the CW, the little network that well serves a niche audience but remains, well, a niche player in a mass medium.

That must give her some solid perspective at Conde Nast, where its newish 14-magazine related channels, grouped at The Scene, try to reach the same young audience the CW has always sought. As you can figure, at the CW and elsewhere, capturing that demo is not easy.

Yesterday at an Advertising Week event, Ostroff said that back the CW, “we singlehandedly watched 18- to 34-year-olds migrate to other platforms,” namely the Internet. That movement made “Gossip Girl,” a CW series, a “hit” with audiences, but not all of that was reflected in Nielsen ratings.  

The CW made news when it shortened the time between on-air episodes could be streamed online to just eight hours, way back in 2012, because its young fans were working around longer windows, illegally. Other shows and networks had lag times of three days.

Later, the CW started The Seed (hmm...The Seed...The Scene) to let the CW’s Web site incubate potential series online before letting them bloom online. Though it would seem a lot of online video creators have had the same idea, props to the CW for being so committed to the idea.

A lot of innovation starts with the businesses that have the slimmest share of their markets. They innovate because they have to, and there’s usually not a very big layer of bureaucracy, or much of the legacy stuff, standing in the way. The Seed  led to “The Backpackers,” a CW online program, graduating to prime time this summer, where in truth it did not remake the television landscape. But the idea is worthwhile.

In fact, it seems so obvious I’m surprised how badly the major networks and studios use their online businesses to create new hits, or present more back stories that can be exploited on their online sites. That’s what’s behind Disney’s acquisition of Maker Studios, most of all. While online video is still not a viable place for big budget/big gamble programming--that’s what they say--it’s the perfect place to grow your own ideas. 

At Conde Nast, Ostroff is proving she’s learned some lessons, the biggest one being: Follow your audience, and then serve them.
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