Lifetime Television is on the hunt for a successor to the programming chief who helped it rocket to No. 1 in primetime for cable.
Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff, Lifetime's executive vice president of entertainment, last week was named president of UPN Entertainment, effective Feb 11. Tarnofsky-Ostroff will be based in Los Angeles and report to CBS president Leslie Moonves, who began overseeing UPN for Viacom Inc. last month.
Lifetime president Carole Black plans to fill the post, a Lifetime spokeswoman said, adding that Tarnofsky-Ostroff has built a solid programming team that can handle things until a replacement is found.
Sources said they expect to Black to recruit someone from outside Lifetime for the top programming slot, since there doesn't appear to be an obvious in-house candidate.
Ray Solley of The Solley Group, a consultant to cable programmers, has worked with Tarnofsky-Ostroff on a number of projects for Lifetime. He said her departure will "probably leave a sizable gap," although "the machine is running quite well now."
"She and Carole took a targeted network and made it into a general-entertainment network," Solley said. "Dawn is a really good programming executive, especially in the scripted world. She knows how to maximize the dollars and the creative energies in the scripted arena."
Tarnofsky-Ostroff, who joined Lifetime in October 1996, is the architect of the women's network's blockbuster Sunday-night lineup, a building process that started before Black came on board. Lifetime's roster includes the original dramatic series Any Day Now, Strong Medicine
and The Division, shows that helped drive Lifetime to the top of cable's ratings last year.
She also solidified Lifetime's original-movie franchise, which has been a ratings-driver. Earlier this month, the network's Video Voyeur: The Susan Wilson Story
posted a whopping 5.1 rating.
Tarnofsky-Ostroff said she worked as Moonves's assistant early on in her career, while at 20th Century-Fox Television.
"I feel he is one of the most astute players in the business," she said. "Obviously, I have had a great run at Lifetime. But UPN is a great network, and a new challenge really excites me. This is going back to a broader palette."
Tarnofsky-Ostroff essentially fills the void left by the exit of UPN entertainment chief Tom Nunan last year and the recent departure of UPN CEO Dean Valentine.
While at 20th Century-Fox TV, Tarnofsky-Ostroff worked on the development of one of UPN's current hits, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.