The CW's New Digital Strategy Comes Into Focus

The network will (finally) have in-season streaming rights to its freshman fare.
Courtesy of The CW
'Nancy Drew'

The CW's new, post-Netflix-deal digital strategy is coming into focus.

Nearly three months after opting to not renew its Netflix pact, the younger-skewing network will finally have in-season streaming rights to its programming. CWTV.com and The CW App will be home to the full seasons of rookie dramas Batwoman, Nancy Drew and Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene. Every episode of those three shows will be available to watch the day after it airs for free while the shows are currently airing and remain on the network's free and ad-supported platforms. This marks a change from The CW's former strategy, which saw only a "rolling five" — the five most recent episodes of a series — available on both of those platforms.

As part of the new deal, The CW's free and ad-supported digital platforms — CWTV.com, The CW App and CW Seed — will have rights to stream all episodes of the three rookie shows until 30 days before the start of the next season. After that point, The CW will have a rolling five episodes of its new shows on its streaming platforms until the following season's episodes become available.

The new strategy emerges as The CW parents CBS TV Studios and Warner Bros. TV have taken back rights to stream full seasons of new series on their respective SVOD platforms, CBS All Access and HBO Max, respectively. CBS All Access announced last week that it had secured streaming rights to CBS TV Studios-produced Nancy Drew, while HBO Max will be the new full-season streaming home of Batwoman and Katy Keene.

The CW's previous pact saw full seasons of CBS TV Studios- and Warner Bros. TV-produced shows land at Netflix eight days after the season finale.

The new full stacking rights deal to keep all episodes of originals on CW platforms is exclusive to Nancy Drew, Batwoman and Katy Keene; Netflix still retains rights to all previous shows, including Riverdale, The Flash, All American and Supernatural, among others.

The change is a long time coming and will allow viewers coming in late to CW originals the opportunity to go back and watch all episodes of a series, which would help give the traditionally lesser-watched networks originals a chance to grow during their current seasons.

"We are incredibly excited to offer our viewers the full stack of our new shows on our preeminent A-VOD digital platforms, giving them the chance to catch up on these shows from the beginning at any point during the season, for free and without authentication,” The CW president Mark Pedowitz said Sunday in a statement before addressing the news during his network's time at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. “By being the exclusive in-season streaming home for our new series going forward, it also provides us with more information about how viewers are consuming our programming, how we can engage with them, and create even more multiplatform sales opportunities for advertisers.”

In other TCA news announced Sunday, The CW's digital network, CW Seed, has acquired off-season streaming rights to Pop TV's Emmy-nominated comedy Schitt's Creek. The series, which will return in 2020 for its sixth and final season on the CBS TV Studios-owned Pop TV, will keep its subscription streaming service deal on Netflix. The first four seasons of Schitt's Creek will be available to stream for free on The CW Seed App and CWSeed.com starting Sunday. 

“We love everything about Schitt’s Creek — the comedy acting, writing as well as the show’s binge-ability. All of which are perfect for the CW Seed audience,” said CW executive vp Rick Haskins. “We’re excited to help expand the awareness and hope to generate new fans of this brilliant series on our free, ad-supported platform.”