CW's Mark Pedowitz: Our Parent Companies Are 'Very Happy' With Net's Performance

The CW president once again defends the network's profitability and talks backdoor pilot for "The Flash" and push to develop scripted comedy.
The CW
Mark Pedowitz

CW president Mark Pedowitz admitted that his attempt to pioneer a new ratings system that would consistently and reliably track VOD and online streaming of the network's younger-skewing series may have been naive, but he's not giving up.

STORY: CW Renews 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?'

"It's still a work in progress," he declared at the network's Television Critics Association press tour Tuesday morning. Pedowitz also talked about the important of SVOD as a critical revenue source and confirmed that the network is actively looking to develop the DC Comics character The Flash as well as scripted comedy.

Bringing measurement into the 21st century

When Pedowitz took the top job at The CW in April 2011, his goal was to launch a measurement system that would account for all the ways the network's target 18-34 audience watches television. "I thought it would be easier to get done," he candidly told TV critics gathered for the CW executive session. Currently the network uses Nielsen's OCR data, which measures online advertising, as well as numbers from competitor Rentrak. "It's far more complicated than anyone ever anticipated," he said. "We've always viewed ourselves beyond our linear ratings with our VOD and our online (viewing)." In fact, more than 20 percent of the network's viewing is done digitally (online and via tablets and mobile).

Bullish on scripted comedy

The success of the revival of Whose Line Is It Anyway? has made scripted comedy a real possibility at The CW. "Whose Line gives us a strategic piece now [to launch] comedy," said Pedowitz. "I think it might be the time. We have a platform to do it and we didn't really have one before." The show – hosted by Aisha Tyler – has become a break-out summer hit for The CW. And with a hefty 24-episode second-season order, Pedowitz noted that he'd like to use Whose Line in season to launch a scripted comedy."Strategically, it made a huge difference for us," he said. "The game plan is, if we can, to bring it back for midseason."

The Flash forward

Pedowitz confirmed that the network will use Arrow to spin off another DC Comics superhero. The Flash, aka Barry Allen, will be introduced in the upcoming second season of Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg's Arrow. "We're planning an origin story, and we'll see how it goes," said Pedowitz. "We do want to expand the DC Universe, and we felt this is a very organic way to get there." Berlanti, Kreisberg and DC Entertainment's Geoff Johns – a consultant and writer on Arrow – will pen the Warner Bros. Television project. David Nutter, who directed the series pilot of Arrow, will direct the potential backdoor pilot. Barry/The Flash will first be seen early in Arrow's second season. "He may not come in with superpowers," Pedowitz said, adding that the casting process is already underway. "If we get a name, great, if we don't get a name, they'll become a name." 

Reign will reign with women 18-34

Pedowitz is optimistic that Reign, the period drama about a teenage Mary Queen of Scots – played by an actress (Adelaide Kane) who is actually half Scottish – will be right in the sweet spot of the network's target women 18-34 audience. "When Smallville went off the air a couple years ago we lost a lot of men," explained Pedowitz. But the network broadened its male audience last season with the one-two punch of Arrow and Supernatural. With Gossip Girl and 90210 wrapped, the network was actively looking to restock female-targeted shows. "As Gossip Girl got older and 90210 aged out we knew we needed shows for women," said Pedowitz. "We took a shot at Reign, high-concept, very different historical fiction. We felt that Reign would attract women of all ages."

When Leslie Moonves speaks …

On Monday, CBS Corporation president/CEO Leslie Moonves defended The CW's business model, explaining that while the network "as an entity may lose some money," The CW's co-ownership structure (it is a partnership between CBS and Warner Bros. TV)  brings in enough revenue to make up for those losses. Some of that revenue comes from streaming pacts between CBS Studios and Warner Bros. and Netflix and Hulu. "I pay particular attention to Leslie's comments," said Pedowitz on Tuesday. "We've said consistently that the parent companies have been very happy with how The CW has performed. Within the ecosystem that exists, it's a very profitable venture. We're a platform as well as a network for those shows." And as more viewers are using streaming services to binge on series – particularly serialized dramas – those series are becoming increasingly viable for networks, which can realize a second significant revenue stream via SVOD deals. "Serialized programming never really thrived in syndication," noted Pedowitz. "I think the [streaming] model, particularly with serialized programs, is thriving."

Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie