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The CW president Mark Pedowitz opened his annual appearance at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour by pointing to his longevity in the broadcast business.
“This is my seventh summer press tour — who said I would not make it?” he wondered aloud. (A day earlier, brand-new CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl introduced himself at his very first session in front of the media pack with a self-deprecating one-liner about lasting longer than “the Mooch,” President Donald Trump’s fast-fired communications director.)
Pedowitz is the longest-tenured broadcast chief in an increasingly ephemeral industry. And the evolution of the network under his stewardship from a linear channel holding on for dear life to an innovative, multiplatform destination increasingly lauded for its creative swings is clearly something of which he is proud. When he first took over the network more than seven years ago from original president Dawn Ostroff, the questions at the press tour were, “Are you still going to be in business?” he said. “Those are not the questions today.”
The CW’s robust digital strategy — a necessity given its young, platform-agnostic target audience — has allowed the network to aggregate a viewership large enough to keep the lights on, as the net ended the season with ratings up in every demographic, once all streaming is taken into account.
“We understood we had to evolve, and the only way to evolve was to become a multiplatform player,” said Pedowitz. Still, he admitted that he’d rather have everyone watching live.
“The CW has always been an outlier in broadcasting,” he said. “My preference is that [audiences] watch it live. At this point in time, as long as we can find the audience and aggregate them, it’s the best of all worlds.” (The network was down double digits last season in the 18-49 demographic based on live-plus-7.)
The CW will bow two new shows in the fall — Valor and Dynasty — with Life Sentence, a comedic hour, and Black Lightning, a superhero drama developed at Warner Bros. for Fox, set to premiere midseason.
Valor, a military drama, and Dynasty, a reboot of the iconic 1980s primetime soap, both feature female leads. And Pedowitz noted that it is a deliberate strategy to speak to women viewers as the network’s female-skewing hours Reign and The Vampire Diaries have wrapped. The shows also are aimed at broadening The CW’s pallet beyond its superhero niche. Still, Black Lightning, which stars Cress Williams and scored a series order despite filming only a short presentation, was a no-brainer for the network.
“[Warner Bros. executive] Peter Roth and I had one quick discussion about it and that’s it,” Pedowitz said, adding that he has been a longtime fan of showrunners Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil.
The CW honcho also said there are no plans at this point to replace top development executive Thom Sherman, who was recently pressed into service at CBS. Rather, head of current Michael Roberts and development chief Gaye Hirsch will continue in their present roles.
(Pedowitz allowed that he misses Sherman, and acknowledged his “baptism under fire” on Tuesday, as Sherman and Kahl faced a barrage of questions about CBS’ lack of diversity. “I’m sure he was wishing he was back with me for a second,” said Pedowitz.)
The CW confirmed that its annual four-part superhero crossover will happen over two days with Supergirl and The Flash on Nov. 27 and Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow on Nov. 28. Pedowitz also confirmed that veteran cult hit Supernatural will continue: “As long as the boys [series stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki] want to do it and the ratings hold, Supernatural will stay on the air.”
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