Inside The CW's Upfront: Jared Leto in Hot Pants, a Sunday Shill and 'Riverdale' Fever

Thirty Seconds to Mars opened the tight City Center spiel that pushed the new six-night schedule and gave ad buyers what they came for: attractive young actors.
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Thirty Seconds to Mars at The CW's upfront presentation Thursday

"The CW is bigger and better than ever."

Those were network president Mark Pedowitz's parting words during a clip-heavy upfront presentation Thursday that still managed to clock in at less than an hour — a marked changed from the 120-minute-plus NBCUniversal pitch-fest that kicked off the week. Pedowitz's declarative statement followed several others about the young-skewing network's strong digital footprint — "No other network uses digital and social like The CW!" — and its expansion to a sixth night of programming with the introduction of Sunday nights come October.

The remainder of The CW's 54 minutes before the ad-buying community included cameos from the stars of mainstays Supernatural, Riverdale, Black Lightning and Arrow as well as those from its new crop (In the Dark's Perry Mattfeld) and returning favorites (Legacies' Matt Davis).

The Gimmick | "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!" The CW doesn't often have an abundance of news, hence the forgivingly brief running time of the network's presentation, but adding a sixth night to the schedule this coming fall gave it more than enough to talk about. It really drove the point home when buyers filed out of the venue, receiving CW-branded ice cream "Sundays" — much to the chagrin of spelling enthusiasts. Another big point of emphasis was the Arrow arrival of Batwoman, a plan for one of the network's umpteen comic book crossovers.

The Spin | The CW was multiplatform before, well, everyone else was multiplatform, and its brass was dead-set on making that clear Thursday morning. "We introduced our convergence initiative eight years ago," said executive vp national sales Rob Tuck, adding, "We're happy that the rest of the industry is finally catching up with us." At multiple points during the presentation, network execs touted The CW's digital and social reach, using Riverdale — the most popular broadcast show on Instagram, apparently — by way of example.

The Star Power | Jared Leto and his brother Shannon, the pair behind Thirty Seconds to Mars, opened the presentation. "This is not rock and roll hours — at all," Jared said of the 11 a.m. start time. "Hitting those high notes is a bit of a stretch."

The Favorite | iPhones emerged and began snapping when Tuck invited the Riverdale cast onstage. Acknowledging that their show had exploded into the zeitgeist this past season, the well-coiffed actors used their minute to thank the audience of media buyers — even if the bulk of that thanks belongs to Netflix.

The Room | Goofy and visibly nervous onstage, In the Dark star Mattfeld seemed to win over the City Center crowd — one that didn't appear to be all that aware of what the network was there to talk about. Maybe it was upfronts fatigue, but genuine gasps of confusion were heard in the nosebleeds when Pedowitz mentioned that Charmed was returning and Jane the Virgin is ending. (Keep up, people.)

WTF? Moment | Following a clip from Greg Berlanti's All American, a drama about a South Central football wunderkind recruited to play for Beverly Hills High, castmember Taye Diggs took the mic. He noted that he'd been to a few of these upfronts in the past, but this one was different: "This is the first time I've actually been proud." The comment sent audience members to consult the web for his past credits (hint: ABC's Grey's Anatomy spinoff Private Practice and TNT's Murder in the First were among them).

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