Why Your Network Sucks: The CW
It’s Upfront Week, when the broadcast networks trot out their fall schedules while begging advertisers to pour billions of dollars into marketing their shitty products and movies on their mostly shit programming. We offer an unfiltered analysis of each broadcast network at this time of monumental spin.With deepest apologies to Drew Magary’s impeccable Why Your Team Sucks format.
Your Network: The CW. Yes, we’re really doing this to the littlest broadcast network. Look, they’re a broadcaster, this series is about all the broadcasters, and it wouldn’t be fair to do one on them. In order to avoid the feeling of clubbing a baby seal, we’ll start out with this: The CW no longer makes money the way any other network does, because of the massive, billion-dollar deal they’ve made with Netflix that puts every single CW show up on the streaming service eight days after the end of their respective seasons. Netflix did this because its younger-skewing subscribers like to watch 6 episodes of The Vampire Diaries at a time. The CW did this so they could live another season.
It’s been rough sailing for the netlet of late — that’s the peril of attempting to appeal to viewers in a demographic that doesn’t watch TV the same way everyone used to. Even the formerly reliable superhero block is trailing off, and while shows like Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend get heaps of well-deserved praise and awards show hardware, their viewership is minuscule.
TV reporters and industry people talk about ratings all the time, so it’s easy to lose a sense of perspective. Most of these shows are only pulling in anywhere from a 0.2 to a 0.7 rating in the 18–49 demographic. Those numbers sound small, and they are. But it’s even worse than that: A 0.2 rating means less than 0.2 percent of Americans in that demo watched a show on broadcast television — roughly 250,000 people. Crowd estimates of the Women’s March in Downtown LA got up to 750,000, more than the total viewership of some of these shows.
But like I said at the beginning: As long as Netflix — which currently has $15.1 billion in streaming content obligations — foots the bill, it doesn’t really matter all that much.
Your Exec: Mark Pedowitz. Yes, that is his real last name, and he is actually a Smart Dude, but there is just no getting around the way your face crinkles when learning the youngest-skewing broadcaster is run by a guy with the last name “Pedowitz.” Anyway, he renewed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend against all business logic and made my parents happy by renewing iZombie, which is cool; but he’s also handed over 40% of his schedule to DC Comics shows that are starting to show diminishing returns.
Your Biggest Returning Show: The Flash. As previously mentioned, the DC shows are all showing signs of wear, and The Flash is by no means an exception. And yet, it still managed to sometimes outrate some of its competition on Fox in the 18–49 demo. That’s how bad the End Times have gotten.
Incidentally: For all the pixels spilled over The Vampire Diaries finale, y’all sure as shit didn’t show up when it aired. That’s the order of the day for most of these shows — publications cover every idiot detail (“WILL THERE BE ORIGINAL SONGS IN THE DC MUSICAL CROSSOVER?”) because they draw metric shittonnes of traffic (33,000 unique views) that never actually translates to viewership. One could argue the shows make waves within the larger culture (i.e. the brouhaha over The 100 killing a lesbian character sparking a wider conversation about representation on TV, &c.), and the Netflix tail will serve them well, but boy, it sure is interesting to see that gulf, which is wider on The CW than pretty much anywhere else on the broadcast guide.
(It happens all the fucking time with cable shows, with every outlet trying to figure out how many times they can repackage #content on each episode of Better Call Saul before people notice they’ve covered literally nothing else that day. There’s the recap, the recap of other outlets’ recaps, the post about the comments on the recap, and the slideshow of the comments about the comments. Only that last one is made up.)
Your Biggest New Show: It took me a while to even remember what new shows The CW had other than Sexy Archie. Technically, Supergirl was new to The CW, but that feels like a cheat, since it came from CBS. They only had two others, which flamed out with a quickness: Frequency and No Tomorrow. Like with Fox, none of these shows actually deserve this designation, even if Sexy Archie was a Very Good Show that got renewed.
Your Most Promising Pilot: Black Lightning actually sounds cool: “Jefferson Pierce (Hart of Dixie’s Cress Williams) made his choice: he hung up the suit and his secret identity years ago, but with a daughter hell-bent on justice and a star student being recruited by a local gang, he’ll be pulled back into the fight as the wanted vigilante and DC legend — Black Lightning.” Their military drama sounds… Well. And for fuck’s sake, rebooting Dynasty? I don’t care if it’s the Gossip Girl people behind it — particularly with the way that show dissolved into the poster series for how not to portray an abusive relationship — no one in your target audience cares that it’s a reboot, so why not simply create a new soap?
Not like it fucking matters anyway, because Netflix.