The CW's Mark Pedowitz on Metrics, Genre and a 'Virgin'

The CW
Mark Pedowitz

The exec was vocal about the network's evolution as a broader, more male-skewing network while making it clear that The CW won't become strictly a genre network.

CW chief Mark Pedowitz trotted out on stage Friday to salsa music.

“Life is great,” he said as he took a seat and began fielding questions from reporters gathered at the Television Critics Association. He made no explicit mention of his network’s Nielsen upticks, though he could have: In a bid to broaden, The CW rounded out the 2013-14 season up 14 percent in adults 18-49 and 5 percent in total viewers, while staying flat among its core 18-34 demo.

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Over the course of the half-hour, he did speak often about the evolution of his younger-skewing brand, which has moved away from being a niche female network during his three-plus years in the job. Arrow was an important first step in opening up his network to male viewers, and Pedowitz is looking to lure still more with shows like Flash while still appealing to women with such offerings as Jane the Virgin.

Here’s a look at the other topics addressed during the panel:

(Not Quite) a Genre Network

Despite The CW’s success with such shows as Arrow and The Vampire Diaries, Pedowitz insisted he had no plans to make it a genre network. Rather, he stressed the need for the kind of balance that broadcast demands, reiterating his hopes for securing a good family show with Jane the Virgin. “The one thing that we have learned is that audiences do not come to us to watch procedurals,” he acknowledged, adding that other networks, including corporate cousin CBS, have cornered that market. What do viewers look to The CW for? “Interesting characters in serialized form.” Pedowitz will continue to try to crack comedy and comedic reality, too.

A Slightly Different Metric

Success is defined differently at The CW, which Pedowitz has never tried to hide. Take Beauty and the Beast, which he renewed despite unimpressive on-air ratings earlier this spring. His explanation, which he has stated before, has more to do with the benefits it provides The CW's parent companies than it does anything else: "Beauty and the Beast has a very engaged fan base and a very big international following," he said, adding: "It’s a very profitable show for everybody." Other CW series have been granted a longer life because of their popularity online, as was the case a year ago with The Carrie Diaries. At a certain point, however, a series can only survive long-term if it becomes financially feasible, which the since-canceled Carrie Diaries ultimately did not.

The Nielsen Problem

Pedowitz used the platform to remind the room that The CW has been a pioneer in using multiple measurement companies including DoubleClick and ComScore to create an integrated media buy. And now, as more viewers move away from live linear viewing, TV ratings behemoth Nielsen has been forced to innovate and now offers multiple multiplatform and out-of-home measurement services. But Pedowitz acknowledged the shortcomings of Nielsen's TV ratings service, which underpins the bulk of the billions of ad dollars being spent on the networks. "I only wish Nielsen had a bigger sample," he said. "At the moment that is the system we have to work with. We have to have some faith in it even though it sometimes is a little bit flawed."

A Diversity Push

With diversity once again a hot button topic at the semiannual press tour, Pedowitz fielded multiple questions about his network's record. "Diversity has always been a top priority," he said, pointing to upcoming fall shows including telenovela Jane the Virgin, which has a largely Latino cast and many Latinos in behind-the-camera positions, as well as The Flash, which co-stars Jesse L. Martin and Candice Patton, who is both Asian- and African-American. "I believe our shows need to reflect what America looks like. It is something I believe in," he continued. "We're an immigrant nation. We go out of our way to find that diversity. We've made great strides in this area. We can always do better."