There has definitely been some big activity happening at The CW in recent days by new owners Nexstar. A week ago they announced that the series Nancy Drew would be ending this year. Yesterday, DC’s Stargirl, a show that has enjoyed a few solid summer runs and a strong following, was cancelled.
Today, the verdict was announced on backorders for two new series in their first season runs. The Winchesters and Walker: Independence will not have their first seasons extended beyond 13 episodes. According to Deadline, “Both Walker: Independence and The Winchesters have done well by CW ratings standards and are new chapters in hugely popular CW franchises, so, under normal circumstances, full seasons for both shows would have been a no-brainer.”
The network insists that the move is purely cost cutting and that these shows are not cancelled. The CW also announced layoffs today, around 30-40 people. Among the bigger names gone, Paul Hewitt, who was communications chief for as long as the network has been around and before at UPN.
Those assurances from the network hasn’t sit well with many people, who take it as a bigger sign that Nexstar is accelerating their plans to take The CW into cheaper programming by acquisitions of scripted and unscripted shows. The goal is for them to actually make a profit with The CW, something that never happened when owned by Warner Brothers and CBS. Various sources reported that Nexstar got The CW in a cashless deal, meaning they assumed much of the $100 million debt that The CW was in. Nexstar’s goal is to eliminate that debt.
Another article that emerged from Deadline is that Nexstar is looking to cut their license fees per episode to 1 million from 2 million. That would be a significant cut to the fees received by Warner Brothers Discovery and CBS to produce their shows, thus cutting their incentive to air their shows on The CW beyond next year.
Nexstar is obligated through an agreement with Warner Brothers and CBS to run their shows until 2023, but after that, anything goes. The CW has already cancelled this year 4400, Batwoman, Charmed, Dynasty, Stargirl, Legends of Tomorrow, In the Dark, Legacies, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Nancy Drew, Naomi, Roswell, New Mexico and Tom Swift, and given final season orders to long running shows Riverdale and The Flash. It probably doesn’t make business sense for them to part with all their shows right away since they still need viewers to keep the network afloat, but the number of those shows and episodes produced will certainly dwindle.
Speculation naturally has run wild as to where potentially these series could land if they no longer have a home at The CW. A lot of it will depend on whether their studios see value in these properties. Warner Brothers Discovery seems to be going through some extreme cost cutting of their own, thus one reason why to cut their investment in The CW. More to come on this I’m sure as the season progresses, but it is looking more and more like The CW won’t be carrying on the franchises long term that has kept the network going through the years. If studios want those franchises to continue, streaming services are the likely next option.