Tim Stack
April 20, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and that’s certainly been true for The CW, the UPN/WB hybrid that’s seen its share of hits (America’s Next Top Model) and misses (Runaway) in its debut season. Now that the toughest part is behind it, EW talked to network entertainment president Dawn Ostroff about The CW’s future.

The CW’s first development slate was hindered by the four-month turnaround between its January 2006 birth and last May’s upfronts. ”While people were picking up pilots, we were announcing a new network,” explains Ostroff, who opted to go with several aging shows, including 7th Heaven and Gilmore Girls. One new drama, the uncharacteristically dark Runaway, was canned after three airings. Ostroff doesn’t regret sticking with mostly veteran series: ”We felt the best way we could launch was by using established shows.”

Of the fall debuts, only Girlfriends spin-off The Game remains. And while The CW’s average audience of 2.7 million is lower than the 3.1 million viewers reached by both UPN and The WB last year, the new net is pulling in 6.2 percent more viewers from the lucrative 18-to-34 demo. ”It doesn’t deliver the audience of the major networks,” says Horizon Media analyst Brad Adgate, ”but it [is] very desirable for advertisers.” Take Wednesdays: Ostroff is thrilled with Top Model (No. 1 in its time slot with women 18 to 34) and a revitalized One Tree Hill. ”Viewers stayed for Hill more than any other drama we’ve put behind Top Model,” she says. We’re guessing Chad Michael Murray will need more tank tops for season 5!

The CW is taking a page from The WB’s playbook and looking at fun, female-centric pilots like Gossip Girl, from The O.C.‘s Josh Schwartz and based on the best-selling books, and Commander in Chief creator Rod Lurie’s I’m Paige Wilson, about a young congressional aide. ”We’re going to put our own stamp on this year,” says Ostroff. (She’s mum about prospects for Gilmore Girls — which is rumored to return for a 13-episode season — and Veronica Mars.) ”We’ve got new shows and a fresh voice.” And if everything goes her way, it’ll grow much louder this fall.

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