If it airs on The CW, it just got renewed. The netlet, a joint venture between Warner Bros. and CBS Corp., officially picked up 11 of its current series for next season on Friday afternoon. That includes low-rated fan favorites “Jane the Virgin,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “iZombie,” “The 100” and even period drama “Reign,” which has bounced around the schedule a bit, in addition to solid performers “Arrow” and “The Flash” and venerable properties like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Supernatural.” (The full list can be found here.)
“As we continue to further our strategy of more year-round original programming, picking up these 11 series for the 2016-2017 season puts us in a great position of having proven, high-quality shows to launch in the fall as well as midseason and summer of 2017,” CW president Mark Pedowitz said in a statement.
A network picking up its entire schedule in one swoop is practically unheard of and yet another sign the TV industry is finally adapting to its own climate-change troubles. Showing audiences that they can trust a network not to pull the rug out from under them may not pay off right away, or at all if you’re just looking at traditional numbers. But traditional numbers no longer tell the whole story: young viewers of the type that flock to CW-like programming are increasingly watching on other screens like phones and tablets.
The CW, a joint venture between Warner Bros. and CBS Corp., has been one of the more stable networks for years now. Six of the 11 series picked up will be four or more seasons old when they hit the air in the 2016-17 season; "Supernatural," about two demon-fighting brothers, will enter its 12th season. The network debuted just a single new series in the fall, the Golden Globe-winning “Crazy Ex,” and only had two on the slate for midseason ("DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” and virus thriller “Containment”). “We did not have a lot of shelf space,” Pedowitz explained at the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers in May 2015.
That’s a scenario that will repeat itself this coming May, when Pedowitz and his team choose from the six new pilots fighting for a spot on the schedule. The CW only programs 10 hours per week — two hours a night, Monday through Friday — so those spots are beyond scarce.
The economics of the CW are a little different from its bigger broadcast brethren, given its status as a joint venture, the fact that it’s barely a decade old and its younger skew. Madison Avenue still plays an important role in the continued existence of its programming, but because CW audiences have skewed younger from the get-go, the net has been a little more proactive about making its shows available to watch online and creating skip-proof ads through brand and product placement. (There’s a reason Jane, the hero of “Jane the Virgin,” loves Target so much.)
And in a nod to the realities of the traditional TV audience, the network recently began offering ratings guarantees to advertisers based on the older 18-49 demographic; previously, their guarantees had primarily been based on the 18-34 demographic that continues to shun linear television.
The mass renewal will only fuel rumors of a coming standalone CW streaming subscription service, similar to CBS All Access; to make such a service viable, it would need a nice, big library.
Those rumors have intensified as Warner Bros. has pulled several of its series from streaming service Netflix, and CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves has alluded to a possible CW product during several investor calls and conferences. Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Warner Bros. parent company Time Warner, has been on a tear of late regarding getting properly paid for the content his companies produce. Bewkes wants to withhold shows produced by Warner Bros. TV and the Turner networks from streaming services that may be cannibalizing viewership or may not be paying what the shows are really worth.
Further evidence: Warner Bros. recently purchased wildly popular Korean drama-streaming site DramaFever. While Warner Bros. hasn’t unveiled what its plans are — insiders say the current idea is to take the plumbing and use it to build a series of brand “experiences” — the purchase falls right in line with what Moonves and Bewkes have been talking about.
Sorry, “Flash” fans: By this time next year, you might be forking over another $6 a month for your shows.