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CW forms a plan of action

`Online Nation' and `Gossip Girl,' with Web components, are meant to woo the 18-34 group.

July 21, 2007|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

The CW has its eye on something, and it's definitely not the Emmys.

The new and ratings-challenged network, the recent union of the former UPN and WB networks, scored a single Emmy nomination Thursday -- one less than the cable channel "Animal Planet."

"It's an honor to be able to garner any nominations," Dawn Ostroff, the CW's president of entertainment, said Friday during an hourlong news conference, part of the annual summer television press tour in Beverly Hills. But "we don't sit down and say we've got to get Emmy Awards."

Instead, what Ostroff and other CW executives sit down and strategize about is corralling old and new viewers who are in the 18-34 age demographic. The CW, which among broadcast networks already has the lowest average median age for its viewers at 32, urgently needs to gain a larger chunk of viewers that it made only marginal headway with in the transition last year, merging from two networks into one.

The network is out to do more than just regain ground; it wants to gain younger viewers in a crowded entertainment universe that includes broadcast and cable television and also iPods, computers and cellphones. One technique will be to amp up the interaction between the network's television and online content.

"Online Nation," which premieres Sept. 23, is a new half-hour show that chiefly aims to turn "mouse potatoes" into "couch potatoes" by taking a look at some of the Web's best user-generated content. Another tack will be to encourage viewers of the network's much-buzzed-about newcomer "Gossip Girl" to participate in a sophisticated online community where they can dance, shop and interact with others while they watch the show. "Gossip Girl," an hourlong teen drama, debuts Sept. 26.

The online experience is "to be able to watch the show while you're talking to your friends," said Ostroff, who added that the targeted demographic is known for multitasking and being online practically all day.

In addition to "Gossip Girl," the CW this fall will be launching two other new dramas -- "Reaper" and "Life Is Wild" -- and one new comedy, "Aliens in America."

The network will continue to rely on its slate of reality-based programming to snag younger viewers as well. Joining its high-performing staples -- "America's Next Top Model," "Beauty and the Geek" and the second season of the "Pussycat Dolls" franchise -- will be "Crowned," a beauty pageant in which mother-daughter teams compete for prize money, and "Farmer Wants a Wife," a romance competition in which a farmer seeks a city girl.

Ostroff was asked by a reporter whether she was proud of the message the network's reality-based programming sent to young women.

"You know what? I am," she said. "These shows for the most part have a sense of humor about them."

The shows are about "relationships," she added. "I feel proud of taking people from very different walks of life and putting them together in different environments and letting people see how much we all have in common."

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