The CW Chooses Its Undertaker

Brad Schwartz
New CW Entertainment president Brad Schwartz. Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
November 6, 2022

You’ll be forgiven for cringing a bit as new CW entertainment president Brad Schwartz made the rounds in trade interviews this week. “I think we’re going to try having breakthrough content that brings in large audiences,” he said. “And we’re just going to have to figure out a way of doing it efficiently.” It’s always tough when the guy hired to gut the place tries to explain his strategy in the fluffiest and most optimistic terms. But with apologies to station group owner Nexstar, which just acquired 75 percent of the CW, the economics of “bringing in large audiences” to a last-place linear broadcast network don’t really make sense.

They haven’t made sense for years, actually. The CW, which programs for the 18-34 year old demo yet has an audience with a median age of 58, continued to exist only because its owners, Warner Bros. and CBS, could seed their younger-skewing shows there, build small but devoted audiences, and then make the real money selling rights to Netflix and foreign outlets. Without that ownership element and a rich aftermarket, the CW is a little-watched linear money pit, and the numbers are getting worse. Its top show this season, All American, is averaging about 440,000 viewers, down more than 20 percent from last season, per Nielsen. That’s its top show. Coroner, a Canadian drama you’ve definitely never heard of (don’t lie!) that is remarkably in its fourth season, is averaging about 380,000 viewers and a .04 rating in the 18-49 demo. There are local newspapers with that kind of audience.