The CW president Mark Pedowitz told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association press tour that means advertising serves have more than doubled on CWTV.com and its app – a big boon for the network, which obviously controls its digital ad sales.
The change happened earlier this year after The CW hammered out a new pact with Netflix that gives that service streaming rights to CW series eight days after those shows end their run on the network. Previously, Hulu had in-season rights to a rolling five episodes of CW shows. That in-season streaming access now exclusively resides on CWTV.com and the network’s app, as well as affiliate station video on-demand offerings.
Pedowitz said the response has been “massive. We have not advertised. Our service is only three months old. People have found it by word of mouth and through social media. Controlling your own destiny of your digital product and ad sales, and you’re the only place for in-season viewing makes a huge difference.”
In some cases – “The 100,” in particular – Pedowitz said the streaming audience has matched or surpassed a show’s linear viewership. He said he network takes all of that secondary viewership into account, as well as critical acclaim, in making series order decisions.
The CW gave an early blanket renewal to seven series for the 2017-2018 TV season on Sunday, including “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Supergirl,” “Supernatural,” “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
“Crazy Ex” remains critically acclaimed but low-rated, which left critics asking how The CW justified renewing the show from a financial standpoint. But Pedowitz said he believed critical acclaim still eventually drives viewership, especially with viewers finding the show via streaming.
“With critically acclaimed great programming, sometimes you just leave it on the air and you just hope it finds an audience,” he said. Shows like “Crazy Ex” have “helped alter the perception of what The CW has become… it has a big bearing on how people talk about a place. It gives you a calling card. If you deliver quality shows and they’re well received, people want to watch your shows. The more viewers you have, even on a delayed digital basis, that does have economic improvement.”
Pedowitz said he wished earlier in his career he had been given the luxury to keep critically acclaimed but low-rated shows on the air, like ABC’s “Eli Stone,” which he was recently reminded of after the death of George Michael (who was a story point and guest star on that show). Pedowitz helped produce that show as head of ABC Studios.
In other CW news, The CW has ordered a new animated version of the DC Comics title “Constantine,” voiced by Matt Ryan (who played the character in the live-action series).
Pedowitz also reiterated his insistence that “Supernatural” will remain on the air “as long as its performing and the boys want to do it and I’m sitting it this chair.”
As for freshman entries “No Tomorrow” and “Frequency,” which weren’t given renewals on Sunday, “we had no intention going beyond 13 episodes… both shows were very well done, but whether it was the fall election or World Series or ‘This Is Us,’ the linear numbers not where they wanted to be. With our new digital strategy and Netflix deal, we’ll be able to judge whether there’s a binge moment and see in May whether they come back.”
Pedowitz also said The CW has received “no blowback” from viewers over abortion storylines on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin.” “These two storylines were completely organic,” he said.
The network is bullish about its upcoming “Archie” comic reinterpretation, “Riverdale,” a darker take on the franchise. The show’s pilot runs 47 minutes, instead of the broadcast primetime standard 43 minutes, in order to keep in some adult storylines. But it is a bit of a return to the soap genre that once dominated The CW’s lineup. Pedowitz said he saw an opening for such a show as Freeform’s “Pretty Little Liars” and MTV’s “Teen Wolf” go off the air.
“It’s very simple, we had grown enough [as a network], that we could go back into genre, edge it up a bit and put it as part of our programming mix,” he said.
And asked about the network’s “Charmed” reboot, now in development from Jennie Snyder Urman, Pedowitz said the show, set in the 1970s, so far would have no story connection to the original series. (It’s not a prequel).