Beverly Hills, CA -- During his session Monday at the Summer 2013 Television Critics Association tour, a reporter asked CBS Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, "How is it possible that the lights are still on at The CW?"
The reporter asked the question because of the relatively low Nielsen ratings earned by most CW shows. Moonves was unfazed and, as always, refreshingly candid. "The CW as an entity may lose some money," he admitted. "However, The CW is owned by two companies that produce the shows [on its schedule]. The shows bring us more revenue than losses. So it's still valuable, and there's still a marketplace for it. How's that?"
With Moonves' answer in mind, another reporter yesterday during a session with The CW President Mark Pedowitz wondered if the network could survive without the very lucrative deal that co-parents Warner Bros. and CBS have in place with Netflix, which gives Netflix exclusive online subscription rerun rights to all past and present CW shows, or if its model would have to somehow change in the wake of such a huge loss. Pedowitz replied, "If Netflix decides -- and I hope they don't -- that they do not want to be associated with Warner Bros. and CBS and The CW shows, hopefully there will be some other service out there that would like that. I think that model now, particularly with serialized programming, is a necessity because that's where it actually thrives. Serialized programming never quite thrived in domestic broadcast syndication."
As for those pesky ratings, Pedowitz said, "We've always viewed ourselves beyond our linear ratings with our VOD and our online. Our online is approximately a little bit over 20 percent, not 25 percent, and that continues to grow. Our on air ratings continued to grow this year, particularly in total viewers and households."
The CW's decision in the fall to try and further raise its ratings with a lush historical drama -- albeit one with multiple factual liberties taken – was very much on the minds of critics yesterday during the session with Pedowitz.
The addition to the network's schedule of "Reign," about the tumultuous early years of Mary Stuart, also known as the doomed Mary Queen of Scots, looks to be one of the most out-of-character moves and high-profile risks by any broadcast network in the new season, given The CW's unarguable success with series about supernatural beings and superheroes. It is definitely the network's most buzzed about new fall series. Seems it is all part of the network's effort to try to renew its appeal to young women.
"We've said very much since I've been here that we're looking to expand and broaden the adult 18-34 [demographic] which would be more inclusive to men and women," Pedowitz said. "When 'Smallville' went off the air a couple of years ago we had lost a lot of men. And then with 'Arrow' and 'Supernatural' [being paired up] men came back." But in the meantime, "'Gossip Girl' got older and '90210' kind of aged out. We knew we needed shows for women. To my development team's great strength and to CBS Studios' faith in the show, we took a shot at 'Reign.' [It's] high concept, very different, historical fiction. We felt that going with 'Reign' we would attract women of all ages. We also felt that, by pairing 'Reign' with 'The Vampire Diaries' we'd give 'Reign' the best shot to have the most [women] 18-34 going into that show."
The other most-asked-about show during Pedowitz' session was one that doesn't even exist yet: A series built around the D.C. Comics character The Flash, which will be a spin-off from "Arrow" once the character is introduced on that show later in its second season. A Flash series would be more in line with the current environment at The CW, which is rather dense with fantasy and genre programs (including those parked on its midseason bench). Apparently it is almost a sure thing, even though The CW co-parent Warner Bros. is reportedly planning to make a movie about the same character. (Warner Bros. has a rich tradition of keeping movies and television projects about characters from its D.C. Comics division as separate as possible. This is the exact opposite of the approach taken at Disney. Its upcoming ABC series 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' exists in the same world as 'The Avengers' and other movie franchises based on Marvel superheroes.)
Significantly, a series based on The Flash would mark the third spin-off from a current program on The CW in a year. The other two are "The Originals," a spin-off from "The Vampire Diaries" set to debut in October, and a much-talked-about potential spin-off from the long-running "Supernatural," which was announced two weeks ago at Comic-Con and would center on a character that will be introduced in the upcoming ninth season of that series.
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