The CW: What to Expect at the Upfront


THR analyzes which series are likely to return in the fall, the new pilots generating heat, and what the ad buyers are whispering.

As the upfronts loom ever closer (starting Monday in New York) and the broadcast networks salivate in anticipation of an improved ad market, THR is running a network-by-network breakdown--updating the news as it breaks. As always, nothing is set until the networks unveil their schedules and really, not even then.  

May 19
11 A.M.
Time Warner Center

This will mark Dawn Ostroff’s swan song as the longest-serving network chief of the current broadcast crop as she passes the baton to her successor, Mark Pedowitz. Both are expected to present.

Another trying season for the younger-skewing net, with such modestly rated series as The Vampire Diaries and America’s Next Top Model propping it up. While there were no instant flameouts like the previous year’s The Beautiful Life, freshman entries Nikita and Hellcats failed to reach hit status. In recent years, the CW has been criticized for lining its schedule with too much of the same (see serialized dramas like 90210). While relatively steady in total viewers, the net is rounding out the season down 9 percent among the 18 to 34 set.

The network’s survival is perpetually the subject of debate. But for advertisers, the CW offers something its broadcast competition does not: younger, female-skewing viewers. “If you’re representing a fashion-conscious brand, there aren’t that many shows out there that feel right,” says Todd Gordon, senior vp national broadcast at Initiative. The network also gets props from buyers for its multiplatform sales approach that includes putting the same ad load in online episodes and TV counterparts. In development meetings with buyers, Ostroff stressed the net’s desire for diversification and more repeatable franchise fare.

With Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries and 90210 already renewed, the CW doesn’t have much space for experimentation. That said, expect to see both Kevin Williamson’s Secret Circle and Hart of Dixie (from Gossip Girl’s Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage) on the schedule. Heavenly and Cooper & Stone could make it as well. Nikita s expected to return (among other things, its star Maggie Q offers international appeal), with perennial bubble show One Tree Hill likely to join it, according to sources. Rather than rely almost exclusively on serialized dramas set in tony worlds, the CW will attempt more stand-alone offerings. Hence a development season filled with doctors, detectives and lawyers.

Send upfront tips to Lacey.Rose@thr.comand