When Mark Pedowitz joined The CW as president in 2011, he binged two of the network's shows before starting: Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries, with the latter having then aired two seasons.
Now, as TVD wraps its run after eight years, Pedowitz sees the show as having helped shape his network at a time when it wasn't particularly known for being a genre-friendly home.
"A show like Vampire, which is on the air eight years and for a period of time I would say kept the lights on ... Vampire was very intrinsic to what The CW became," Pedowitz tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Binging TVD gave the executive a sincere appreciation for the show that has been evident in the way he's spoken about it over the years. After his binge, "I was in awe with Julie [Plec] and Kevin [Williamson] and the whole cast and crew did in the first two years of Vampire," he said. "They took what could have been a teenage angst show and made it so much more: It was a love triangle. It was a love of two brothers. It was all of these characters that represented [so many different] things. Also, I believe at the end of year two was the introduction of Elijah's character that comes to year three for Klaus."
He paused. "I'm doing this from memory, by the way."
Essentially, The Vampire Diaries bridged the gap between what The CW was known for after its formation from The WB Network in 2006 — young, teen-friendly, soapy shows a la Gossip Girl — and the genre haven it is today with shows like iZombie, The 100 as well as a roster of DC Comics shows like The Flash and Supergirl.
"This show basically captured what was working for The CW and continues somewhat. What started as a young female-skewed show with all the elements of the supernatural ... became more than just a teenage show," Pedowitz said. "It became a genre show that was appealing to an audience that worked for it. It helped us as we re-crafted [into] what The CW is today, which is a broader network. It's rooted in broadcast. It's rooted in genre. It's rooted in serialized programming. But we understand the genre works. We understand serialized programming works. Vampire did a terrific job and it sustained itself for all those eight years."
Pedowitz's main mission the year after he started at The CW was to broaden the network's target demographic. "We purposely went out starting in '12 to broaden the audience base, because we realized that if we became too niche, it would be difficult for The CW to survive in its present form," he said. "Vampire was broad enough in what it did that it fit what we were trying to get to with Arrow or at the end of the day Flash, or even Jane [the Virgin], in terms of it being high in concept or genre. In this case it was genre with a little bit of high concept to it."
But that doesn't mean the network didn't dabble in genre before. "It had Smallville. It had Supernatural. It had Vampire," Pedowitz pointed out. "But it also had 7th Heaven. It had Gossip Girl. CW became more defined in the early part of its 10-year history from Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries appealing to a young female audience. It became very defined."
Today, Pedowitz keeps a note on his desk that he uses to explain what the network has become. "We're a high-concept flash genre, whether it's comedy or drama, serialized programming. Some elements were procedural, but they're not the driving force. As long as we stay in that world, our shows may or may not work, but they fit us better. When we try to venture outside that world for whatever reason, we cannot bring the audience that we hope to bring on any platform."
When it came time to end The Vampire Diaries, Pedowitz said the decision ultimately fell to co-creator Plec. "I believe Julie, [Warner Bros. Television president] Peter [Roth] and I had a conversation over the summer. We all sat together and we asked Julie what she thought, where we were at, how we all felt. You have the issue of actor's deals coming up and everything else that goes with it," Pedowitz said. "Julie felt — and we support her completely — that she had hit the end of those stories. She sadly came to that place with great remorse. But Peter and I were backing her. ... She was comfortable with ending it because she knew how she wanted to end it. We supported her."
Personally, though, Pedowitz will miss TVD. "The network and myself personally will miss it tremendously. I am a fan of the show," he said. "I view the show as a fan. I have seen all the episodes."
He continued, "I'll miss Damon. I will miss Stefan. Elena went away two years ago; it's good to have her come back. I will personally miss Caroline Forbes and Bonnie. It's going to be tough. I will miss all of those characters. They were fun to watch. It was fun watching them grow and play the roles. They're all really good actors and they deserve a lot. I will miss Julie Plec, a great partner — I hope to be back in business with her in some form. I'll miss Kevin, I mean, but Julie was running the show since I've been here, pretty much. She has been terrific."
As for the network, "Without The Vampire Diaries we would not be where we are today," he said. "I actually said this at the senior staff meeting [to] my team on Monday — we owe The Vampire Diaries a deep debt of gratitude for bridging us through two different perceptions of what this network is."
The Vampire Diaries series finale airs Friday on The CW. Check back to THR's The Live Feed after the episode for more coverage.