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Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

CW Network Officials Keep Patience, Seek Momentum

By In the first four months of its existence, The CW Network was free to be patient as it recognized viewers needed time to know which channel to find their favorite programs previously airing on the low-rated UPN and The WB networks. Midway through its first season, the fledgling network’s executives still preach patience but bring momentum into the picture as old shows keep their viewers and new programming and online social networking initiatives expand The CW brand. The Burbank-based network a joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. has seen steady ratings growth in its target audience of 18 to 34 year olds. Shows like, “Smallville,” “America’s Next Top Model” and “Gilmore Girls” all score high in their time periods in those age ranges. When executives with The CW appeared at the Television Critics Association winter press tour last month, president of entertainment Dawn Ostroff declared the network was happy where it found itself. “For us the goal is to show growth over The WB and the UPN,” Ostroff said. “In some cases we have seen growth over those networks in certain (demographics). But we have a long way to go.” National ratings figures through Jan. 28 bear that out. In the category of adults ages 18 to 34, The CW averages a 1.5 rating and a 4 share, which means that of viewers in that age group 1.5 percent watch The CW and of those watching television 4 percent are tuned to the network. That’s a 7 percent increase over numbers of The WB a year ago and equal to UPN numbers. For women ages 18 to 34, The CW averages a 1.9 rating and a 5 share, which means that of women viewers in that age group 1.9 percent watch the CW and of those watching television 5 percent are tuned to the network. That’s a 6 percent increase over the numbers of The WB from a year ago and equal to the UPN. Officials from Warner Bros. and CBS announced the formation of the new network a year ago and launched its programming in mid-September, taking the most popular shows from the WB and UPN. The network has about 200 affiliates. The CW follows The WB’s primetime scheduling model six nights and 13 total hours of primetime programming. The UPN used to only schedule 10 hours of primetime programming over 5 weeknights. Tough audience The target audience the network goes after is not an easy one to reach. It is the generation that tends to be the first adopters of new technology, who find alternatives to watching television and aren’t necessarily setting aside time to watch a specific show. But having been through the experience of the WB and UPN, those running The CW probably realize that their strongest asset is in that audience, said Bob Gustafson, an associate professor in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts at California State University Northridge. “If you can have them watching your shows that’s amazing because they aren’t watching anything else on television,” Gustafson said. “Maybe they are watching ‘American Idol’ but that’s not a lot. That’s a real plus for The CW.” The network tapped into the tech savviness with The CW Lounge, a fan forum site to discuss network shows, and The CW Lab, a site for user-generated content. During certain shows, the network has run “content wraps”, a blending of advertising with characters from the show. It also recently launched an avatar game based on “America’s Next Top Model” and partnered with T-Mobile for a trivia game featuring clips from “The Gilmore Girls.” One area where the network lagged, however, was offering programs via streaming video. The network used the TCA winter press tour to announce it would make available eight shows the day after they are broadcast for up to four weeks at its website. Slow start Ostroff conceded the network was slow in getting onboard with streaming videos of its shows but that was because it was concentrated more on the launch. “It was impossible to be everything to everyone and be everywhere at the same time,” Ostroff said. The streaming player was designed with features to appeal to the demographic, such as ability to resize the player and have it reside on a computer desktop and a share feature to send a clip from one of the streaming shows, said Rick Haskins, executive vice president, marketing and brand strategy. With the advent of downloads and websites allowing for interaction between viewers, another chapter in television history has begun, Gustafson said. Rather than fight the changes, such as what happened in the music industry and a reluctance to embrace accessing music through means other than CDs, the network is joining it. “They have figured out the behavior of their audience instead of trying to change the behavior or being threatened or intimidated about the behavior,” Gustafson said.

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