ALSO READ: The CW Announces Its Fall Schedule.
The CW Network wants to become a significant player on one of TV’s most viewed nights, Thursdays.
To that end, next season it will pair its new action-adventure drama, "Nikita," with this year’s freshman hit drama "Vampire Diaries." CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff said "Nikita" tested "through the roof" with both young male and female audiences.
And they’re not just after viewers. Rob Tuck, head of ad sales at the CW, said he expects "pairing those two shows together will bring more advertisers to the night."
Also outlined at the upfront was another method of bringing advertisers to the network: an aggressive online program.
Thursday is a key night for movie companies, retailers and fast food restaurants that want to reach consumers prior to the weekends.
And while the CW overall has a more targeted young female audience, those two shows should indeed broaden viewership.
The network will still not have the mass audiences as the Big Four, but it will have what can be called a "mass targeted audience of 18-34 year olds," which is traditionally harder to reach.
"Nikita" is about a young woman who is a spy and assassin for a top secret U.S. government agency but who rebels against the agency and tries to bring it down — while they are trying to bring her in. Maggie Q, ("Mission: Impossible II," "Live Free or Die Hard") has the title role.
Ostroff is excited about the possibilities of Thursday night and its impact on the network’s ratings overall.
"We’ve been trying to develop a female-empowering action show since we started the CW four years ago," Ostroff said.
The other new show picked up by the CW for next season is "Hellcats," a drama about a female pre-law student who loses her scholarship and has to join the college’s cheerleading squad, where she clashes with several of the squad’s existing female members. It’s paired to lead out of another top-rated CW show, "America’s Next Top Model" on Wednesday night.
The CW positioned itself at its upfront presentation Thursday as "TV for Generation D" — the digital generation. In thatregard, it said it will begin a heavy push to sell advertisers ad packages that not only include TV but every one one of its streamed shows online.
"Our audience doesn’t distinguish between TV and digital," Tuck said. "We brought the idea of selling digital convergence packages along with TV ads to the ad community beginning in January, and they were responsive, and then we geared up the discussions in March. The biggest concern was how to measure and charge for streaming viewership — and we think we’ve solved that."
Every CW show will be streamed online 72 hours after it airs on the TV network and in this upfront his sales team will sell 15- and 30-second commercials that can be placed in any of the shows.
"We upgraded our online video player to be able to more easily insert these commercials in," he said. "And our entire schedule next fall will be streamed. This is something advertisers have asked for, and we think the response will be good."
The CW needs to find ways to reach online audiences because that’s the way its younger viewers consume media, he said. Nielsen TV ratings data shows that the typical CW viewer watches more programming on a percentage basis than viewers of any of the competing Big Four networks,
Ostroff said returning drama "90210" is "the most DVR’d show on television with its live plus-7-day rating double it’s live TV rating. So while the show does a smaller rating in live plus-3, the currency that TV commercial time is bought at in the upfronts, smart advertisers will realize that the CW viewing audience is much larger."
The networkhas paired its shows to smartly sell specific nights to advertisers in the upfront next season.
On Mondays, it’s pairing "90210" at 8 with its most "buzzed about" show, "Gossip Girl" at 9. Both skew high in 18-34 females.
On Tuesday night, it’s pairing veteran drama "One Tree Hill" at 8, with "Life Unexpected" at 9. The latter show came on in mid-season paired with "One Tree Hill" this year and started to find its legs as the season went along. Both shows skew female but also draw young men and skew a little older.
"Top Model" at 8 on Wednesday has a broader audience, too, but seems like a good lead-in for the probable female skewing new show "Hellcats."
"Smallville," entering its10th and final season, will return at 8 p.m. on Fridays, leading into "Supernatural," which moved from Thursdays at 9 to make room for "Nikita."
Ostroff said the network only ordered 13 episodes each of "One Tree Hill" and "Life Unexpected" instead of the full season order of 22. And he indicated that if either show falters, the network has several scripted shows in development that could be put on — though she would not identify them.