CW President Eyes More DC Comics Fare, Plans Big Summer Scripted Expansion

Issue 16 BIZ Mark Pedowitz Executive Suite - H 2012

Issue 16 BIZ Mark Pedowitz Executive Suite - H 2012

Fresh off renewing this fall's entire scripted lineup, The CW president Mark Pedowitz answered burning questions Sunday about the future of Beauty and the Beast and Hart of Dixie, and previewed the network's continued push into comedy at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.

The panel came during a particularly strong period for the network, a joint venture between CBS and Warner Bros. Up four out of five nights this fall, The CW is enjoying its most-watched season since 2010-11, up 18 percent in total viewers and 11 percent in that core 18-34 demo. In addition to the big Nielsen performers in DC Comic adaptations The Flash and Arrow, the network has earned its first-ever Golden Globe nominations for its critical darling Jane the Virgin.

Looking ahead, Pedowitz is eager to lean on his digital platform, Seed, to discover still more hits, and to continue pushing for year-round programming. Following a series pickup for Vixen, a female-driven animated DC Comics entry from Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim, which will launch on its digital offshoot Seed in the fall, Pedowitz noted the network will look to the platform for a new original comedy series for summer 2016. With a stocked roster — the future of midseason entries iZombie and The Messengers as well as Hart of Dixie and Beauty and the Beast unclear 60 percent of the network's content over the course of the year will be original.

"For us, the shows were creatively quite strong," Pedowitz said of renewing series like Reign and Jane the Virgin, which haven't performed as well, and a Thursday lineup that has taken a hit against ABC's Shonda Rhimes block, adding: "We've been able to monetize the digital component and we're still seeing the viewership — it's just very much delayed or on a digital basis."

Here are the highlights from Pedowitz's executive session:

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Ratings Uptick

"I'd like to be No. 1, but I have to be realistic," Pedowitz said of the network's growth. The network has posted double-digit gains on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and thanks to The Flash has seen its female-leaning viewership shrink from 70 percent to 60 percent, making for happier affiliates. "We're the only network the last two years growing in total viewers," he said of the feat that has come in an era where ratings growth has proven to be increasingly difficult, adding of his net's turnaround: "We successfully brought men back to the fold and grew a little older. … We're bringing more advertisers in and it's broadened out. We will do genre but we still have to find shows that appeal to everybody."

A Packed Schedule

With eight shows already renewed for 2015-16, Pedowitz noted that the network will likely look to pick up five or six pilots this season (on par with the past few years) and may launch its fall schedule with two rookies as it did this year with Jane and The Flash. The network currently has 10 hours of real estate, and the executive noted that there have been discussions over the years about expanding to Saturdays, though there are no current plans to do so.

More DC Comics Fare

Already home to DC Comics fare The Flash, Arrow and iZombie — as well as genre plays including The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and Reign — Pedowitz said that he's already in discussions about expanding the Arrow and Flash universe, but declined to provide further details. Arrow and The Flash exec producer Greg Berlanti, responding to a question about an Atom (Brandon Routh) spinoff, told reporters that they're in "very early talks on a very general idea."

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Beauty and the Beast, Hart of Dixie and More

"One of the reasons we picked it up was to begin bringing scripted programming in the summer," Pedowitz noted of the little-watched shows' renewals. He anticipates a late May or June return Beauty and the Beast, which will join a lineup that will include unscripted series Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Masters of Illusion. Following the session, Pedowitz told reporters that summer '15 will also consist of a British acquisition and likely a few more reality shows. As for his romantic dramedy Hart of Dixie? It's "not necessarily" canceled, Pedowitz said, adding: "We're going to see the ratings." He told reporters he wanted to see how the Rachel Bilson vehicle plays with Jane the Virgin, calling Dixie's early December launch a "fun holiday gift." Should season four be its last, Pedowitz called the final episode a "great finale" that could also be a "great season finale."

Summer 2016

While its attempts to launch comedies with CW Seed import Backpackers and Canadian half-hour Seed proved unsuccessful, Pedowitz said talks were underway to pick up a comedy produced by either network partners CBS Television Studios or Warner Bros. Television. While the deals weren't done on time for TCA, Pedowitz said the mystery show was first developed for its digital platform before being eyed for the network's summer 2016 roster, noting, "Summer 2016 will be a much bigger summer for us." The CW would join broadcast networks including CBS and NBC with original scripted fare in the summer, with the former spending big on genre fare including Extant and Under the Dome, while the latter has focused on inexpensive comedies and Canadian imports.

Supernatural Spinoff Update

After trying unsuccessfully last season to launch a Supernatural spinoff and attempting to redevelop that project, Pedowitz indicated that the network remains hopeful that the producers behind the veteran show can come up with a new concept. He pointed to the show's 11th season renewal and said he hoped they could craft a new idea next season, meaning it's unlikely The CW will pilot one this season.

Crossovers, Crossovers, Crossovers

Scoring ratings pay dirt with its Arrow and The Flash crossover, Pedowitz said he has plans to make it an annual event for the fourth quarter every season. As for The Vampire Diaries and spinoff The Originals doing the same, he put that decision in the hands of executive producer Julie Plec and company.

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