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With new owners Nexstar set to unveil The CW’s strategy for the 2023-24 broadcast season next week, the network has added another U.S. scripted original to those plans.
The CW on Tuesday announced that it has renewed Jared Padalecki drama Walker for a fourth season consisting of only 13 episodes, its lowest order to date. The reboot of the 1990s Western joins All American on The CW’s schedule for next season as sources say Nexstar may be eyeing a mere four U.S. scripted originals on its schedule, which new owners Nexstar has already been populating with low-cost imported shows that have already aired elsewhere. Decisions on the network’s remaining U.S. scripted originals have net yet been determined.
Walker ranks as The CW’s most-watched linear series in its third season among total viewers, a fact that is increasingly important to station group Nexstar as it looks to age up the network as part of its larger plan to make The CW profitable. The CW was never created to be a profitable network but rather as a way for its owners, CBS Studios and Warner Bros. TV, to monetize scripted fare by selling streaming and foreign rights. Now that those rights are being held back for both studios’ respective streamers (Paramount+ and HBO Max), both Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery sold majority stakes in The CW to Nexstar. WBTV and CBS Studios each retain a 12.5 percent ownership stake in The CW and Nexstar contractually had to air all of its remaining scripted series during the 2022-23 season.
“Over the past three seasons, Walker has become the top performing series on The CW with a passionate fanbase and a fantastic cast and creative team led by Jared Padalecki, who has now been a leading man on the network for over 20 years,” said CW entertainment president Brad Schwartz. “As we build a great big new future for The CW, we are thrilled to be staying in business with our partners at CBS Studios and we cannot wait to have Walker back on the schedule.”
Walker previously featured runs of 18 (seasons one and three) and 20 episodes (season two); its order for 13 episodes should be considered Nexstar’s way of controlling its spending on the pricey series for which it must pay a licensing fee to CBS Studios. With the renewal, The CW’s former owners now each have one show apiece guaranteed to be on The CW’s schedule as All American hails from WBTV. The order also likely takes the writers strike into account as showrunner Anna Fricke, along with the nearly 12,000 other members of the Writers Guild of America have put their pencils down in a battle with studios over wages, mini-rooms and the use of artificial intelligence.
“I’m so excited and grateful to continue the Walker legacy for another season alongside our partners at CBS Studios and The CW,” said star and executive producer Padalecki. “We can’t wait to make season four bigger and better than ever and to lasso even more fans into the Walker family. Let’s ride!”
Sources say The CW may slot two U.S. originals in the fall, both with 13-episode orders, and replace them come midseason with two more U.S. originals. The CW still has yet to make decisions on the future of All American: Homecoming, Kung Fu, Superman & Lois and rookies Gotham Knights, Walker: Independence and Supernatural prequel The Winchesters. All are considered on the bubble, with The Flash, Nancy Drew and Riverdale currently airing their final seasons.
With Nexstar at the helm, Schwartz — who previously ran Pop TV and is credited with bringing Schitt’s Creek to U.S. audiences — has focused on adding low-cost foreign originals to fill the slots of the scripted fare that currently populated the network built by former CEO Mark Pedowitz. Pedowitz was among the execs who were pushed out late last year after Nexstar formally took control of The CW. Pedowitz and his team had spent years building up The CW’s roster of U.S. originals in a bid to expand year-round programming to seven nights a week. The CW, under Nexstar, did not develop a single scripted pilot this season in a sign of Nexstar’s larger plans for the genre.
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