Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2007 (Revised March 2011)

The CW: Launching a Television Network

by Anita Elberse and S. Mark Young


In May 2006, Dawn Ostroff, president of entertainment of the newly formed CW Television Network, was faced with the task of choosing the final set of programs for the 2006 fall schedule, which she would present to advertisers at the annual "upfront" market in New York one week later. Only four months earlier, CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc. had announced they would close their UPN and The WB networks, and run the CW as a joint venture. This unusual partnership, a first in the history of network television, had created a unique challenge for executives: an unprecedented number of existing shows would have to be cancelled. Ostroff and her colleagues—who had received thousands of letters, petitions, and gifts from desperate fans begging for the renewal of their favorite shows—had filled the empty slots. The final decision was the toughest: although four popular shows were still in contention—Everwood, One Tree Hill, 7th Heaven, and Veronica Mars—there was only room for three. Which show would be the last to be axed? And what would be the best time slots for the three last additions to the line-up? Allows for an in-depth examination of marketing issues in launching and operating a major broadcast television network, in particular making programming and scheduling decisions and managing relationships with audiences and advertisers. Provides unique insights into the launch of a network—a rare enterprise—and the associated marketing and branding campaign. Also contains rich television ratings data that can form the basis for a discussion on product portfolio management, in particular, continuation and pruning decisions (i.e., series renewals and cancellations). Finally, can be used to facilitate an assessment of challenges and opportunities in developing sustainable businesses in a rapidly changing media environment.

Keywords: Advertising; Customer Relationship Management; Decision Choices and Conditions; Television Entertainment; Brands and Branding; Product Launch; Strategic Planning; Networks; Media and Broadcasting Industry;


Elberse, Anita, and S. Mark Young. "The CW: Launching a Television Network." Harvard Business School Case 507-050, June 2007. (Revised March 2011.)