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The CW has Saturday night fever.
The broadcaster will expand its primetime footprint to Saturdays, beginning with the 2021-22 season. The move marks the first time in The CW’s 15-year history — as well as those of its predecessors, UPN and The WB — that it will program all seven nights of the week.
As part of the new arrangement with its affiliates, The CW will also return five hours of daytime programming — 3 to 4 p.m. ET/PT weekdays — to local stations. The time period has been home to repeats of The Jerry Springer Show on a number of CW affiliates in recent years.
“As The CW expands and thrives, so do our affiliate partners, and everyone sees the tremendous value and the clear excitement behind the opportunity to brand and identify as a seven-night network on both a national and local level,” said Betty Ellen Berlamino, executive vp distribution at The CW. “The addition of more original programming to our Saturday primetime lineup coupled with our stations’ ability to now program the Monday through Friday daytime block is a win-win for all parties.”
The first Saturday program on The CW will air Oct. 2 with night one of the network’s annual iHeartRadio Music Festival concert special. The network’s regular Saturday lineup will be announced in conjunction with the release of the fall schedule May 25.
Saturday primetime has long been something of a dead zone on the broadcast networks. Only a handful of first-run programs air on the night, notably CBS’ long-running newsmagazine 48 Hours and college football on ABC and Fox in the fall. NBC’s Saturday Night Live, which now broadcasts live nationwide, runs in primetime on the West Coast.
The CW doesn’t really play the same broadcast game as its counterparts, however: The Mark Pedowitz-led outlet has called itself a “multiplatform network” for several years. It can use the additional space Saturdays as a launchpad for more originals or acquired shows, which will in turn flow to its streaming platforms via the CW app and CW Seed.
“Becoming a seven-night-a-week network has been a long-standing goal for everyone here at The CW, and in an extremely tight broadcast environment, the ability to expand our primetime by two more hours each week is a dynamic shift that will be gladly welcomed by our clients and the agencies,” said Rob Tuck, executive vp national sales for the network. “Following the recent industry trend, which has seen considerable contraction on a linear basis, The CW will buck that trend this season by adding a new night of original programming, creating new opportunities for us going forward.”
The addition of Saturday to The CW’s footprint comes three years after the network began programming Sunday nights following a seven-year absence. The network, a joint venture between WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS, also has rarely canceled shows in recent years. Since The CW resumed Sunday programming, only three scripted shows (excluding preplanned endings) have gotten the ax.
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