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CW Network May Be Sold - What That Might Mean for Streaming Services

Ben Bowman

The Wall Street Journal reports WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS are considering a sale of the CW Network. There’s a chance that could impact your favorite shows.

The Journal reports “the network isn’t profitable as a stand-alone broadcast entity, but the content produced for it is a valuable asset for other platforms at the parent companies.” In 2022, linear channels aren’t as valuable as they used to be. Their primary value to the audience is the ability to watch live events. Since WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS have their own streaming services, the companies may be content to keep the shows on the streaming platforms, possibly selling them into syndication or to the new owner of the CW.

This means shows like “The Flash” or “Riverdale” would likely continue production, but their availability on the CW would hinge on whether the new owner of the channel would be willing to agree to terms.

The company rumored to be interested as a buyer is Nexstar, the group behind NewsNation. In theory, Nexstar could try to keep the CW as the same youth-focused network it has been. Or they could revamp it entirely, as Disney did when it purchased the former CBN/Family Channel and changed it into Freeform.

As we’ve seen in recent months, owners of large network blocs have been able to hold streaming services hostage by demanding higher fees for retransmission. NBCUniversal and Disney recently went to war with YouTube TV, threatening to remove their stations unless YouTube TV met their demands. In both cases, there was a resolution. Nexstar currently owns 197 television stations across the United States, so the addition of the CW would bolster their portfolio.

Streaming services are trying to provide the maximum content at the lowest price while station owners are trying to extract the highest fees possible. As we mentioned, live events (specifically sports) provide the biggest leverage in these negotiations. The CW doesn’t offer sports, but it would be relative “throwaway” channel that Nexstar could offer as a “goodwill gesture” in exchange for higher prices on its network affiliates.

Fans of the CW’s programming shouldn’t worry - the production companies behind those shows still want to crank out those titles. They may just debut on a streaming service first before moving to the CW. Or they may leave the CW entirely, depending on the new owner’s preference.

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