Is this a pivotal season for the youth-skewing network? TheWrap weighs in on its new series
Once the home of high school dramas like “90210” and “Gossip Girl,” The CW has strategically moved in the direction of genre dramas with carryovers like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Arrow” and “Supernatural” joined by freshman series “The Originals,” “The Tomorrow People” and “Reign.”
“One of the things that I've said, and it's had an impact from the beginning, is that I wanted to broaden out the programming,” CW president Mark Pedowitz told TheWrap.
As a result, the network has been seeing an odd rise in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic. As of late October, this season has seen an increase of 10 percent with 18-49 audiences and only 1 percent with its key 18-34 demo, year-over-year. That could be problematic for the network, which sells its advertising against the younger-skewing 18-34 lot.
The CW, owned by CBS and Warner Bros., earns much lower ratings than the other English-language broadcast networks, which it attributes to its youthful focus and its own youth — it premiered in 2006.
Pedowitz admitted to TheWrap that he was “a little puzzled with the 18-34 numbers.” But, he said the network is pleased by its gains with adults 18-49.
“I want to reach the upper end of the 18-34,” he continued. “And when you do that, it automatically causes your 18-49 to go up … We're a much healthier network because of that.”
It should also be noted that millennials have overwhelmingly adopted online and DVR viewing versus live viewing, so The CW led the charge on championing time-shifted numbers years before the other guys. This season, its primetime schedule is seeing a 34 percent rise in total viewers, and a 42 percent increase in both 18-34 and 18-49 demos with Live+3 DVR viewing.
We've already weighed in on the other broadcast networks’ fall seasons, but held CW for now since its season started later.
Here's TheWrap's take on The CW's fall season so far:
Ratings: Clearly, CW's new shows consistently rank the lowest among the networks among the 18-49. But that isn't really a fair comparison, since its advertising revenue is made against adults 18-34 and online viewing, as Pedowitz made sure to point out. Comparing the series’ 18-49 ratings against each other is more apples-to-apples.
“The Originals,” though it hasn't quite captured the same audience numbers of its progenitor, “The Vampire Diaries,” is doing solidly by CW standards on Tuesdays with an average 1.0/3 in adults 18-49 and 2.1 million total viewers. Pedowitz feels confident that the network made the right decision in not scheduling it with a “TVD” lead-in on Thursdays. It had hoped for the series to find its own audience.
“‘Originals’ has performed quite well in comparison to how ‘The Vampire Diaries’ was,” he said. “I believe over time it'll be a stellar performer.”
Meanwhile, “The Tomorrow People,” averaging a .8/2 rating among adults 18-49 and 2 million viewers in its post-”Arrow” spot on Wednesdays, is doing slightly better than “Reign,” which has a .6/2 and 1.8 million viewers on Thursdays after “The Vampire Diaries.” But they'll both need to put a cork in their sliding week-over-week viewers and galvanize their core audiences.
Chatter: None of The CW's new shows have broken into the Top 10 on the Nielsen Twitter TV ratings. And if you're thinking Nielsen may not be capturing The CW's younger-skewing audience for some reason, it should be noted that ABC Family's “Pretty Little Liars” Halloween special, which caters to the same demo, placed first during the week it aired. Also, “The Vampire Diaries” Season 5 premiere placed sixth during that week. So, it's possible for The CW to break in.
On GetGlue, though, “The Originals” consistently places on the social company's weekly Top 10 ranking of scripted broadcast shows. Notably, its series premiere on Oct. 3 took the No. 1 spot that week.
As for review buzz, TV critics have notoriously looked down their noses at CW fare. This season was different. As Pedowitz summarized: “Some critics perceived [our new fall programming] very well, others do what they do best and savaged it.”
The critics were mixed on “The Originals,” but leaned more to the positive side for its emphasis on family dynamics. The reviews were similarly mixed for “The Tomorrow People”; critics felt that its writing made up for what they felt was a silly premise.
“Reign,” on the other hand, was welcomed more positively than the other two. TheWrap's Tim Molloy even summed up its intrigue over placing Mary Queen of Scots on the French throne as “a girlier ‘Game of Thrones'” in his review and complimented its production value and star Adelaide Kane.
Wrap forecast: “The Originals” is a shoo-in for not only a full season order, but also a second season renewal. It isn't as clear-cut for “The Tomorrow People” and “Reign.” They'll probably both get full season orders, but a second season isn't a sure thing.
Those shows have a couple things working in their favor: First, both fit the direction that The CW is moving in – more genre drama, less of the high school teen kind. Also, struggling returning series may take the heat off of them.
“The Carrie Diaries,” for one, is languishing on Friday nights and seems marked for expulsion. And “Tomorrow People” and “Reign” are also both performing better than “Beauty and the Beast,” which despite its rabid social media fandom, is barely able to break a .3/2 and 800,000 total viewers — The CW numbers of yesteryear.