Will The CW Ever Be Seen As One of the Big 5 Networks?





The CW has made a humble, yet lofty request to be considered one of the Big 4 (5 if they get their way) networks. This is an unusual move in a time when most companies are amping up their streaming services.

The network had a bit of a facelift in recent months, updating its logo with a fresh ‘n spicy new color scheme. The CW has also expanded its content to include titles beyond its traditional lineup of superheroes and teen dramas, many of which were canceled in 2022 when the network slashed 13 shows including Dynasty, Legacies, Legends of Tomorrow, and Charmed. The CW said it wants the big name recognition that ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX has in television.

“We have ambitious goals, but we recognize where we’re coming from,” said Brad Schwartz, president of entertainment at The CW, according to Variety. “We’re the underdog competing against titans. But ultimately what we are striving for is to have everyone stop writing ‘Big 4 networks’ and start writing ‘Big 5.’ We know it’s going to take some time, but that’s the goal.”

This is a unique circumstance as most networks are steering away from traditional TV and expanding their reach to streaming in an attempt to gain back viewers lost to cord cutting, or who never watched broadcast or cable in the first place. The CW has ventured into streaming with a recently launched free service currently in beta testing. But the new owners, Nexstar Media Group, are doubling down on making the network one of the big names among other broadcast giants.

The network plans to air more than 500 hours of sports and some 450 plus hours of original series this year. Nexstar Media Group’s goal is to make The CW profitable by 2025, he told Variety.

“We’re trying lots of new things,” Schwartz said in the interview. “We want to be a big five network. And now with news, sports, talk, scripted, unscripted, live events, game shows, we’re getting there… we couldn’t operate this as a niche kind of cable brand anymore. And specifically only targeted audiences that they need isn’t watching as much broadcast TV as they used to.”

The CW plans to drive viewership on its 200 Nexstar stations and 32 The CW affiliate stations. Schwartz said the network is doing something different and has a chance to test what lands with audiences, and what doesn’t.

“We get to experiment,” said Schwartz. “That’s the nature of the business, while things aren’t going to work will fail quickly. We’ll continue to explore what kinds of programs are going to work on a broad basis to be a Big 5 network.”

The network has wandered into live sports with an “opportunistic” deal to broadcast the LIV Golf, which has seen controversy over human rights concerns. Which sports will come The CW way next has yet to be decided.

The CW has stocked its lineup with returning fan favorites that have already have a built-in audience Superman & Lois will conclude its final season this year. Walker has yet to be officially renewed for a fifth season, leaving room for doubt whether it will continue on after it was ordered for a shorter season with only 13 episodes. The hit series All American and its spinoff, All American: Homecoming finish out the list of four shows brought over from when The CW was owned by CBS and Warner Bros. Discovery. They continue to rank well with audiences.

The CW is also bringing new unscripted shows to the network, in the form of board games turned game shows Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble. Reality series Patti Stanger: The Matchmaker, FBoy Island, and its spinoff Lovers and Liars, along with Police 24/7, and Hostage Rescue will also air on the network this year. And new dramas such as Sight Unseen and Sherlock & Daughter, along with comedy series Son of a Critch join the schedule.

While The CW had a devoted base, the network is the 37th most popular channel with an average of 293,000 viewers, according to US TVDB. For comparison, ABC averages 2.94 million, NBC 3.58 million, CBS 6.13 million, and Fox 1.39 million. So there’s still a long way to go for the network with Big 5 dreams, but with a revamp in programming the network stands a chance at building up its budding viewership to be on par with the rest of the Big 4.

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