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CW’s New Ownership Set to Reshape Network’s Focus; What Will Happen to ‘All- American,’ The Winchesters,’ ‘Walker’?

Matt Tamanini

Since the early days following the merger of UPN and The WB, the network that became known as The CW has been a home for teen-focused content that differentiated it from its more adult-oriented broadcast brethren. However, with 75% of the network being sold to affiliate conglomerate Nexstar, a number of significant changes are expected to hit the channel.

Nexstar is already the largest owner of CW affiliates and on a conference call following the announcement of the deal on Monday, the company’s CEO Tom Carter made it clear that things would be changing fairly quickly.

“As many of you are aware, The CW is currently the lowest-rated broadcast network,” he said, “which we believe largely reflects the fact that its programming is targeted for an 18-to-34 audience demographic, while the average age of the CW broadcast viewer is 58 years… Over time, we’ll be taking a different approach to our CW programming strategy.”

While the 2022-23 season slate is set for The CW, it already reflects this eventuality and a number of bubble shows were canceled ahead of Nexstar’s acquisition. Even though the sale won’t be official until the third quarter of the current fiscal year, the company will take over management of the network immediately.

Outgoing owners Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery — who will maintain 12.5% ownership each — will continue to produce content for the channel through the end of the season, at which time Nexstar has the ability to extend the creative element of its partnership with the studios.

With WBD already reassessing the future of its DC Comics properties on HBO Max, the Greg Berlanti-produced “Arrowverse” is also likely winding down on The CW with “The Flash” ending its run — pun intended — following this upcoming season, as will the gritty Archie and Jughead reboot “Riverdale.”

Superhero shows “Stargirl” and “Superman & Lois” are strong performers and could return to The CW, or they could be moved to HBO Max, despite WBD’s recent hesitance around all things DCEU. Breakout hits “All American” and its spinoff “All American: Homecoming” also have multiple options as they have become hits on linear and through distribution deals with Netflix.

Current and upcoming shows “Walker,” “Walker: Independence,” and “The Winchesters” are expected to have more of a chance to stick with The CW due to their older-skewing appeal.

Beyond what it decides to do with those and a handful of other shows, it is believed that Nexstar will pivot to cheaper, unscripted content that will appeal to the channel’s otherwise older demographic. The CW could also become a repository for low-cost, syndicated reruns; an effort that would replicate the experience of many fast ad-supported TV (FAST) channels that have become the comfort food of the streaming industry.

Nexstar acquired the channel formerly known as WGN America in 2020, and earlier this year relaunched the network as NewsNation. The new name matches the news network’s most popular program, and over the past year, the channel has become a national news network with five hours of news programming every evening.

Whether or not the change at The CW is eventually as drastic as with WGN America, there is no doubt that the days of “One Tree Hill,” “Smallville,” “Veronica Mars,” “Gossip Girl,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Jane the Virgin,” “iZombie,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and many other beloved series are over at the network.

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