TV Upfronts: 4 Takeaways From the CW's Superhero Worship

The CW
'Legends of Tomorrow'

'The Flash' figures prominently in the presentation, which also draws applause for comedy leads Gina Rodriquez and Rachel Bloom.

Momentum. Stability. And strength.

Those three words earned plenty of airtime at CW's upfront presentation Thursday morning, as president Mark Pedowitz made clear that his network was on an upswing. With an assist from sales chief Rob Tuck and their roster of genetically-blessed stars, Pedowitz touted a collection of recent stats, including The CW rounding out its most watched season to date, up 12 percent year-over-year among total viewers. It also broadened out its audience and added more men, both key goals when Pedowitz took the reins from Dawn Ostroff four years earlier.

But the chest-thumping didn't stop there, with Pedowitz noting (often) that critics had also embraced the network in a way they never had before. With adjectives like "genius" and "thrilling" from top publications flashing on screen as he showcased his slate, he noted that his network had more critical acclaim than any other broadcast network this year, thanks to praised newcomers The Flash and Jane the Virgin, and landed on more 2014 year-end best lists than ever before. When the latter garnered cheers, Pedowitz joked, "Applause is so nice."

Here are the key takeaways from the CW presentation, which included clips from the trio of new shows (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Legends of Tomorrow, Containment), a musical performance by Of Monsters and Men and an audience packed with Hollywood heavies Kevin Tsujihara, Leslie Moonves, Peter Liguori and Turner's David Levy.

1. Expect More Flash-Arrow Crossovers
The Flash earned top billing at the CW's upfront. And why not? The Arrow spinoff set a record for the network when it premiered last October, garnering 7 million viewers with seven days of DVR playback. As Pedowitz pointed out, it has helped deliver CW's most watched season ever and most-watched season among men in seven years, since 2007-08. “The CW is doing something unique, it is bringing more viewers back to broadcast, even as we continue to gain on all other platforms," said Pedowitz, adding that there would be another Arrow-Flash crossover event in the fourth quarter, promising to make it a yearly occurrence.

2. Gina Wows ... Again
First the critics, then the awards voters and now Gina Rodriquez has worked her magic on the Madison Avenue buyers. The Jane the Virgin star and recent Golden Globe winner was trotted out on stage with her cast to thank the deep-pocketed advertiser audience for its support. "It may just be money to you," she said, "but it is our dreams." That earnest, heartfelt sentiment continued as the Latina star praised her "awesome" president, Pedowitz, for embracing a different kind of show and a different kind of star. Both Rodriquez and a clip from her first-season series earned heavy applause inside City Center.

3. The CW Isn't Just for Superheroes
The overwhelming majority of its lineup renewed earlier in 2015, and real estate on the CW is hard to come by. "With a strong season this year, there was a place for only one new show this fall," said Pedowitz. That slot went to surprising non-genre choice: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The musical comedy, which looks nothing like anything else on the network, drew big laughs from the crowd — as did star and co-creator Rachel Bloom, who the network is hoping will break out the same way Rodriguez has. "We like to think of it as a dark, screwed up romantic comedy," she promised, of the project first pursued by Showtime.

4. They're Pushing CW Seed Real Hard
Though there have been fewer pie charts and graphs than in past years, each network has rolled out at least a few digital statistics for media buyers. And like Moonves, Pedowitz noted that the CW has more viewers than its ever had — when all other digital platforms are factored in. Digital streaming is up 15 percent year-over-year, said Pedowitz, while the CW episode streaming app has been downloaded nearly 14 million times. Unlike some of its larger broadcast peers, CW has been a digital pioneer, focused on its young, tech savvy target viewer (the net's median age is 24). And Pedowitz promised to grow and broaden CW Seed, its digital content studio, which, already boasts more than 220 hours of content and will reach 75 million users by the end of the year.

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