Of the many interesting stories we’ve been following this year, The CW saga kind of takes the cake. There was a veritable bloodbath of content cancellations two months ago. More recently the reveal that through years of activity, The CW have never been profitable. What the hell was going on at the network?
We not only know a bit more about the channel’s future, but some surprising information about its struggles.
Nexstar Media Group now owns a 75% stake in the network, with the remaining 25% being evenly split between Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount. Their official website has already changed to show The CW on their homepage banner. While they still own a number of affiliate stations for the other major networks- ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox- having The CW under their banner is a pretty big get.
The CW originally launched in 2006 as a merger between Warner Bros.-owned The WB Network and Viacom/Paramount owned UPN. Both networks skewed towards a younger viewing demographic, with shows like “Smallville,” “Dawson’s Creek,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The idea of the network being aimed at teens and young adults continued into The CW, partly by carrying over many of the network’s shows. But also with the newly merged network eventually developing series from the Arrowverse and “The Vampire Diaries.” You’d think with offerings like that, there’d be some financial profit to be had for Warner Bros. and Paramount, the 50-50 owners of the channel.
Turns out there’s a pretty good reason for why it’s not running a profit.
According to Nexstar President Tom Carter, the average age of a typical The CW viewer is 58 years old. Yup, 58 years old. Not what you’d expect from the channel that brought you “Supernatural” and a remake of “Legends of the Hidden Temple.” In a way though, this makes a lot of sense. Maybe the average age was lower when the network first started. How many people in the original WB demographic do you know that watch a broadcast network for scripted programming? The primary viewers of the old networks are going to be people who are simply used to watching channels like CBS and their rampant “NCIS,” “CSI,” “Blue Bloods,” and “FBI” programs.
The goal is to make the network profitable by 2025. How are they going to do that? Well, details are scarce, so we can certainly speculate. Obviously they’re going to create more content that is geared towards their demographic. Cutting production costs by focusing on unscripted reality series or contest shows is likely. So you may very well see where the network will keep it’s current reboot of “Walker: Texas Ranger” and unscripted programs like “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.”
It would be interesting to see how the network moves forward following its massive cutting of popular and noteworthy shows. But, watching the future of the network would probably make for a more interesting program. Seeing what happens to The CW is definitely going to be interesting. Let’s see if it manages to transform into something uniquely good, or fades away into the land of forgotten networks like TechTV, Audience, and NBCSN, and CNN+.