CW Passes On WB Marketing Team, Taps Lifetime's Haskins

In a surprise development, fused fledgling fifth network, The CW, has named former Lifetime Television executive Rick Haskins as executive vice president of marketing and brand strategy. He will report to Dawn Ostroff, president of entertainment for the CW.

Haskins most recently had been executive vice president and general manager at Lifetime, where for most of his stay he had marketing responsibilities, and later, some programming oversight.

The move is surprising, because Bob Bibb and Lew Goldstein--co-presidents of marketing for the WB, who did some of the early branding work for the CW--were expected to handle marketing for the new network, but could not strike a deal.

Bibb and Goldstein were instrumental in the marketing and brand success of the WB, and with launching shows such as "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," "Dawson's Creek," and "Gilmore Girls." By most accounts, for most of The WB's decade-long existence, the network had a better brand identity than that of UPN.



In January, CBS and Warner Bros. announced that they would be merging assets of their respective UPN and the WB networks to form a new network, The CW, to be launched this fall.

Ostroff and Haskins worked together at Lifetime Television when Ostroff was a senior programming executive at the cable network. Haskins has been credited in raising the profile for Lifetime Television in recent years, and for its "Television for Women" brand name. He joined Lifetime in 1999.

Haskins held a number of marketing and programming positions at Buena Vista Television, as well as with Procter & Gamble. He also headed up his own marketing consulting company, The Haskins Group.

Speculation has been rampant that The CW's name will change, given the speed at which the merger was put together. The CW is an acronym--the first letters of CBS and Warner Bros.

Haskins' appointment will only fuel that speculation, as it was Bibb and Goldstein who in a very short time frame--five days--hired an outside agency to come up with the CW name. By way of comparison, it took Bibb and Goldstein four months to come up with the WB name and its branding position.

Haskins didn't have any specific comment concerning the CW name: "I've been here an hour." He said, however, that network names--not just the brand names of TV shows--are key for viewers.

"It's kind of shorthand for the consumer," he said.

Asked to respond to a comment that the CW doesn't really mean anything, he said: "Early on, nobody knew what ABC, CBS, and NBC stood for. Now they know. They stand for something."

The next few months will be a critical period for the CW, as The WB or UPN shows might lose ratings steam--especially as some disgruntled stations disengage from being UPN or WB affiliates.

"Transition periods are always tough," said Haskins. "But these shows have enough brand equity."

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