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SEARCHING AMONGST THE STARS: At Condé Nast, now you too can become a movie star!
“I think there are a lot of movie and TV stars in this building, to be honest. They haven’t been properly mined,” said Dawn Ostroff, Condé Nast’s first president of entertainment, from 4 Times Square on Monday. “There’s talent in the people who are working in the building and in the articles that are being published in these magazines — and the brands themselves. There really is so much opportunity. It’s really this mine that hasn’t been excavated before.”
This story first appeared in the October 11, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Ostroff, the former head of the CW and UPN, is in charge of doing that excavating. Then again, Condé Nast has been out there plenty: Vogue had “The September Issue”; André Leon Talley had “America’s Next Top Model”; W had “Gossip Girl”; Justin Timberlake starred as a GQ editor in “Friends with Benefits.”
The thing is Condé Nast got plenty of exposure but no money.
“Which is the big problem,” said Ostroff. “This is all content that Condé Nast should be able to build a library with in some way — even if it’s in partnership with other companies. The amount of things that have already gotten done is incredible to me. You look at what has already been accomplished, and on one level, it’s really impressive. On the other hand, how much more is there to be done here?”
And what sort of projects will she be looking at? “It could mean films, it could mean documentaries, it could mean television shows, it could mean digital series or digital content, it could be digital channels,” she said. “And it could be across all platforms: Cable channels, cable broadcast networks. It ranges across the board.”
Ostroff’s appointment is the third time in the last year that Condé Nast has hired an executive who didn’t come from a publishing background. The firm hired Joe Simon from Viacom to become chief technology officer last year, and Advance Publications hired Andrew Siegel from Yahoo to be its chief M&A guy.
Now Ostroff will have how to adapt to an entirely different culture — not to mention that it’s a new sort of job, too.
“What Dawn Ostroff has done in her life is run a network,” said one Condé Nast insider. “She didn’t sell things to a network. It’s like the difference between being a writer for hire and an editor. She’s been an editor. She never had to go hat in hand to networks.”
Ostroff played that down.
“I’ve sat on all sides of the desk, so I feel equally comfortable whether we’re going to do our own channels in some way shape or form, or if we’re going to have to sell the content to other distributors,” she said. “Although we’re going to sell shows and develop projects, there are other facets to this, particularly in the digital world. Either way, I’m equally comfortable.”
When asked if a Condé Nast editor would have to get her approval to appear as, say, a judge on a reality TV show, she said, “That I don’t know. Honestly, that hasn’t come up yet. But I would hope that if you are going to be a judge you’d be doing a show we were doing.”
Inevitably, thorny issues will arise. Here’s one: What happens when a writer has a hit story in Vanity Fair and a movie company comes calling? Who has the rights? Will there be competition between the writers and Condé Nast?
Ostroff said she would spend the next couple of months meeting with editors and publishers to decide which projects to pursue immediately. She said she will have a staff of people working for her — initially about six to 10 and it could grow from there. Her first day was Monday.