Dawn Ostroff ’80 took the streaming world by storm two years ago when she joined Spotify as its chief content and advertising business officer. But before jumping on to the Swedish music platform in 2018, Ostroff spent much of her professional career knee-deep in the television and entertainment industries.
While studying broadcast journalism at FIU, she worked as a radio reporter for the local CBS-affiliate station. She credits FIU for its flexibility in helping her earn her bachelor’s degree in the midst of a demanding work schedule.
“Being able to take my classes at night was a really big plus for me,” Ostroff says. “And going to school locally meant I didn’t have to leave my job.”
Moving into television, Ostroff reported during the height of the social and political unrest that plagued Miami in the 1980s – with the peak of the Miami drug war, the Mariel boatlift and a series of race riots that followed the acquittal of four police officers in the death of Arthur McDuffie, all occurring around the same time. Ostroff found working as a reporter became increasingly “overwhelming” and decided to venture more in the entertainment industry, where she could do something that would allow her to “laugh and see the brighter parts of life.” She moved to Los Angeles and began working in entertainment television as an assistant.
“I took maybe 20 steps back from being somebody who was already on-air and producing TV shows and learned the industry and made the connections I needed in order to really pursue a career in the entertainment business,” Ostroff says.
From 1996 to 2002, Ostroff served as the executive vice president of Lifetime where she led the network to become the No. 1 rated cable network on primetime. After leaving Lifetime, Ostroff went to work as president of UPN where she helped merge the UPN and WB platforms to create the CW network and developed several top-rated TV series including “Gossip Girl,” “Vampire Diaries” and “America’s Next Top Model.”
In 2011, she co-founded and launched Conde Nast Entertainment (CNE), a studio and distribution network for film, television, digital video, social and virtual reality. One of her favorite projects was getting to produce the film “Only the Brave,” based on the true story of the 18 firefighters who perished in the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona in 2013.
“I got to know so many firefighters while working on this film,” Ostroff says. “Getting to make a film honoring them and gaining this immense understanding of what their families go through and what their lives are like was such a privilege to me."
Part of Ostroff’s success in the entertainment industry is always being able to discern the next big thing and helping businesses triumph in new platforms – which is also how she found her way to Spotify and podcasting. In an interview with Elle magazine, she claimed her children couldn’t understand why she would leave the CW network to join CNE and launch digital videos, but within two years the world – and her kids – were overtaken with the new medium.
“I’ve always gone where the younger generations have forged a path and being at the forefront of ‘what’s next’ has always driven me in my career,” she says.
She joined the Spotify team to help grow podcasting, where she’s made great strides, like signing Joe Rogan, Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian to the streaming platform. She says working in the music industry, working with chief executive officer and “visionary” Daniel Ek and being part of a globally respected company that’s at the forefront of changing the music industry all drove her to join the team.
Ostroff shares some advice she has for FIU students looking to break into the media and entertainment industries.
“Do something that you really love,” Ostroff says. “I always say you have to have passion, persistence, and patience because if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’re persistent in how you’re going about it and you have patience you’ll eventually move up the ladder and make your way to the career that you want. Also, look at who you’re working for and work for somebody who is supportive, can serve as a mentor and who will be in your corner.”