The CW appears to be moving in a new direction under the Nexstar banner. Following the network’s acquisition earlier this year, it seemed both Nexstar and CW chairman and CEO Mark Pedowitz shared the sentiment that the appeal of the network needed to broaden and cover the older audiences that have increasingly made up the largest portion of their linear viewership. In order to cater to the older demographics and start to swing the network away from its teen-centric programming, Deadline reports that The CW is now pursuing a mix of half-hour comedies, namely multi-cam sitcoms, and procedural dramas to fill out their slate. The general call to the larger creative community was to bring more to the table than simply more teen dramas.
As previously reported, this strategic shift won’t affect the current schedule laid out for the Fall, but beyond that, it leaves their long-standing partnerships with Warner Bros TV and CBS Studios in limbo. Although the two studios have a 12.5% stake in the company and there’s still the option to continue those deals, it seems there’s a want to explore beyond those studios in the interest of making the network profitable and reaching the older audiences that watch the traditional linear network. One vacancy will open up soon with the end of The Flash, one of The CW‘s most popular drama properties, with Season 9 next year, allowing for some turnover.
Already, they have one show lined up for the near future in The Hatpin Society. Written and executive produced by Elissa Aron (Humane Treatment) with Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame also on board, the series is a period drama following a group of suffragists in 1909 New York City who fight tirelessly night and day for justice, turning to vigilantism at night in a desperate bid for change. The series is being developed in-house with a spot open for a potential partner to co-develop, but the network emphasized that neither Warner Bros. nor CBS had to be involved. This won’t be a full departure for the network as they still have shows like the Archie Comics drama Jake Chang on the way, but the period piece will be the first real test to see if the new strategy will work.
The change is also in part to curb spending on new shows significantly. The CW has spent years operating at a loss with Nexstar covering their $100 million in debt when they acquired the network. It became apparent, however, that relying on streaming revenue alone wasn’t going to cut it, especially with how much expensive original content the channel has been pumping out for years. In doing so, The CW was reportedly spending “almost twice” that of other networks. The goal is to put quality and cost-effectiveness first rather than trying to reap the rewards of a streaming-optimized, expensive show.
In a sense, it seems like The CW wants to return to its roots. When it launched back in 2006, comedy had more of a home with the multi-cam sitcom Reba being a particular draw. That series serves as a bit of a blueprint for success with a lower-budget property as it still has a presence in syndication today. There’s a path forward where the network can find the best of both worlds, relying on a mix of third-party scripted comedies and dramas that don’t break the bank in order to afford the Riverdales and Arrowverse shows that’ve populated the channel for years now.
Now that a plan is outlined, The CW is expected to get more aggressive with third-party acquisitions rather than developing new series. We’ll have more here on Collider as more shows join the revamped network.