Oh how the once mighty can fall.
As first reported in The Wall Street Journal, WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS are looking to sell their joint TV venture The CW. The network was first formed in 2006, following a merger of the CBS owned UPN network and Warner Brothers owned The WB.
The Wall Street Journal identifies Nexstar Media Group as the most interested buyer at the moment. Nexstar is a giant in cable, owning almost 200 local channels along with the political publication The Hill.
The CW was a daring endeavor that looked to target a younger demographic. It first made its name with the original series Gossip Girl and high school hits like 90210 and The Vampire Diaries. The series eventually incorporated a broader slate with the rise of its Arrowverse based on the DC properties owned by WarnerMedia, and its Archie Comics universe started by the insane hit that is Riverdale.
The news of this sale came as a surprise to many as there hadn’t been much press of problems at the network. Due to the popularity of much of its programming and its infamous status as a fixture of teenager-focused television, it felt like The CW had a comfortable status.
But there has been trouble brewing. The CW has never been a profitable venture, and often had some of the lowest rated series renewed for consecutive seasons. Much of its wider audience came from a lucrative deal with Netflix that put new seasons of every show on the streamer after two weeks of the season ending. This helped lead to the expanding popularity of shows like All American and Riverdale.
The motivation for WarnerMedia and CBS to get out of the broadcast business is likely motivated by the desire to build their own streaming platforms. Both have recently launched their services with huge pushes for both original and legacy content. WarnerMedia has HBO Max, which is already the streaming home for several of their CW productions like Superman and Lois and Stargirl. Meanwhile CBS has the new Paramount+, an expansion of the former CBS All Access. It’s unknown what the fate of many of The CW’s shows on Netflix would be, but it’s assumed the deal would eventually put an end to their availability on the flagship streamer.
During its 15-year run, The CW was always one of the most accessible content channels, with free episodes and entire series available over the air, on its website, and on the streaming service CWSeed. That included many short-run series on other networks, like Pushing Daisies and Almost Human.
It’s also uncertain what would happen to the licensing deals with Archie Comics and DC that sustain much of The CW’s programming if the network sells.
The sale of The CW would be a sorry end to the daring venture that catered to younger audiences without looking down on them. It marks the end of the cable TV era and signals the massive move of the entertainment industry toward individual streaming services and away from ease of audience accessibility.
And if you’re feeling nostalgic, check out our list of the 15 best CW shows.
Leila Jordan is the TV intern for Paste Magazine. To talk about all things movies, TV, and useless trivia you can find her @galaxyleila
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