TV Upfronts: 5 Takeaways from CW's Presentation


Stars: Adelaide Kane, Toby Regbo, Torrance Combs, Celina Sinden, Jenessa Grant, Megan Follows, Caitlin Stasey, Anna Popplewell, Rossif Sutherland
Team: Stephanie Sengupta, Laurie McCarthy; director - Brad Silberling

The previously unknown and untold story of Mary Queen of Scots' rise to power when she arrives in France as a 15-year-old, betrothed to Prince Francis, and with her three best friends as ladies-in-waiting. The secret history of survival at French Court amid fierce foes, dark forces and a world of sexual intrigue.

Ad buyers packed into New York City Center Thursday morning for a CW upfront presentation focused on new measurement and high-concept fare.

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After a brief and lively performance by red hot music group Icona Pop, CW President Mark Pedowitz appeared on-stage flanked by the network's biggest stars, The Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder. In addition to introducing his new slate and trotting out a bevy of attractive twenty-somethings, the man in charge of the younger-skewing network highlighted the CW's progress in a fast-changing media landscape. "We're going to keep the CW going," Pedowitz said with confidence, "on air, digitally, socially."

Here are the five takeaways from the presentation.

1. Multiplatform Pioneers. Ad sales chief Rob Tuck opened the presentation with brief remarks about the network's fully integrated TV-digital media buy, now in its third upfront season. From there, Pedowitz offered media buyers a flurry of statistics to bolster the network's engagement among its young, platform-agnostic and digitally savvy target audience: initiated streams are up 81 percent from a year ago; 20 percent of the network's viewing is done digitally; the live stream app has been downloaded about 4.5 million times since its launch last year; CW shows are available on Windows 8, Xbox and now Apple TV. "We are growing on air we are growing digitally," said Pedowitz, who will launch seven web series under the newly named online incubator CW Seed. "We have always been a leader in the digital space. We knew we were changing the industry and others are finally following suit."

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2. We're Not CBS. Lest ad buyers forget, Pedowitz was on hand Thursday to remind those with deep pockets that the CW's goals are vastly different than those of the other broadcast nets. At this time last year, the president of the younger-skewing network laid out a suite of goals for a "transformative" year, all of which he says the CW has made headway with this season. Among them: more original programming; greater momentum on-air; having content available everywhere; and broader appeal fare for the net's 18-34 audience. Pedowitz notes that the net is now up in men, thanks to breakout hit Arrow and veteran player Supernatural.

3. Nielsen, Shmielsen. Big Bang Theory numbers they are not. But in a changing landscape, Pedowitz bills a CW show like Vampire Diaries as a "new paradigm hit." Which is to say the soapy vampire drama from Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson draws viewers on TV, online and on social media. In fact, he touted TVD as "the No. 1 social scripted program on broadcast TV."

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4. Highest Hopes.
Newcomers The Tomorrow People (a reboot from Plec and Arrow co-creator Greg Berlanti) and period piece Reign garnered the schedule's most promising time slots. The former (a fantasy drama about a people who represent the next stage in human evolution) will bow behind Arrow, while the latter (a departure, about the untold story of Mary, Queen of Scots) gets the plum post-Vampire Diaries period. (Pedowitz noted that TVD offers the biggest potential for femme-skewing Reign to draw a female audience.) TVD spinoff The Originals will be relied upon to open the night on Tuesdays.

5. More, More, More. With the declining value of reruns in a time shifted television universe, Pedowitz talked up the network's significant investment in original content, including summer offerings Capture, Breaking Pointe and the revival of Whose Line is it Anyway?. Later, he noted that the latter is a way for the network to return to comedy and, if successful in the summer, could move to the in-season schedule. Post presentation, Pedowitz added: "If Whose Line works, we'll definitely go back into the sitcom business."