The CW looks to win over broader audiences—and advertisers—in sweeping programming overhaul

The network, now majority-owned by broadcasting giant Nexstar, is broadening its young-adult focus with licensed hits, unscripted series, and sports.
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· 3 min read

The CW is growing up—and growing out.

Since Nexstar Media Group acquired the network in October, people have questioned how and when, not if, its programming strategy will change. Now, viewers and its advertisers have an answer: The network, founded as a joint venture between Warner Bros. and CBS, will lean heavily on imported ready-made programming and shows acquired from other networks to broaden its programming slate beyond young-adult hits, it announced Thursday.

Fall shows include FBoy Island, the hit reality dating series hosted by Nikki Glaser that was cast off by HBO Max; 61st Street, formerly of AMC; and three Canadian imports, one of which is Sullivan’s Crossing, a series starring One Tree Hill’s Chad Michael Murray and Gilmore Girls’s Scott Patterson (both of whom may be familiar to longtime CW viewers.) The network is also dabbling in sports for the first time and will broadcast LIV Golf on weekends.

The broadened program offering has already expanded the kinds of advertisers The CW hopes to do business with, Dennis Miller, the president of the CW, said.

“There’s a whole set of advertisers we haven’t gone out to historically because the CW was defined rather narrowly,” he said during a press event Thursday. “So we’re reaching out to another 30 or 40 national advertisers.”

In the hopper: The fall lineup’s dependence on acquired titles doesn’t mean the network is giving up on making its own scripted originals, Brad Schwartz, entertainment president of The CW, said. The network has 12 original scripted shows in production and 10 in development, and is in negotiations on more than two dozen. On the unscripted side, there are 15 series in production, Schwartz said, and the network is developing at least 10.

  • “I don’t think acquisition is a bad word,” Schwartz said, pushing back against some characterizations that the acquisitions represent inexpensive, low-quality content. “I don’t differentiate a home-grown show from an acquisition show. And trust me, if you’re just looking for cheap acquisitions, there are a ton out there. We pick shows that we think have a chance to do really well.”

(Almost) strike-proof? Because of its acquisition-heavy fall lineup, the only show that may be affected by the writer’s strike is All American, the sixth season of which is slated to be released this fall, Schwartz said.

  • That show, which has been a hit on Netflix, is popular on The CW’s free ad-supported streaming app, where the median age is 30 years younger than the network’s linear viewership.
  • But there’s no news yet on whether the network will move forward with a third season of the All American spinoff, All American: Homecoming.

Superher[no]: There’s something else missing from The CW’s fall programming slate: superhero shows. The network has not made a decision on renewing either Gotham Knights or Superman & Lois, Schwartz said.

  • For Superman & Lois in particular, the show is “expensive, doesn't make money—and we don't have the rights to the prior seasons,” Schwartz said. (Past seasons of the show live on HBO Max.) “It was kind of a frustrating marketing experience.”
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Some of the same? Despite the changes, The CW remains eager to retain its brand name and the brand affinity it has with viewers who have come to expect young-adult hits, according to Schwartz.

“I don’t think we’re going to run away from the audience that we’ve spent 20 years cultivating,” he said.

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