TV shows need to get money from somewhere -- even if there doesn't seem much of it around.
CW believes its advertisers know where its viewers, in increasingly numbers, are going: The Internet.
It wasn't that long ago the network pulled certain shows off the Internet -- "Gossip Girl" and "America's Next Top Model" --because the network believed the digital versions were taking away from the traditional TV platform, the one which garners big advertising dollars.
Turns out CW's young viewers were pirating episodes. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The CW quickly put those shows back on the Internet.
The CW, more than other networks, gets a big piece of its viewership of its shows online (as well as through time-shifted viewing), because of its young-skewing, tech-savvy consumers.
In that vein, CW is now doubling the amount of advertising online on its Web site, to some 20 thirty-second commercials per one-hour TV episode -- just about the same commercial load as on TV.
The network wants to add back in all that viewing to its traditional TV buys that marketers have been missing. Its plan is to do a number of deals combining TV and Internet advertising for this upfront season.
Still, there are many media executives who will tell you Internet and TV viewing is not the same. And big differences between the two will soon become apparent to those 35% of U.S. TV homes with DVRs: viewers won't be able to fast-forward through commercials anymore.
That's the good news for marketers. But here's the flip side. For decades, TV marketers complained about the glut of commercials in traditional TV programming. CW's new traditional/Internet place is giving those advertisers more of the same.
CW isn't out of the woods yet. Reports suggest it is still operating with net losses, not profits. And the continuing trend - especially for its young-skewing viewers -- could mean that soon the majority of its viewers will be watching online, not on-air. Meanwhile, traditional TV still gets the lion's share of media budgets.
Right now it still isn't financially viable to run high-profile, expensive, $2.5 million an episode TV shows online -- even doubling the number of commercial messages.
CW is laying the groundwork, in anticipation of all those "TV Everywhere" efforts -- with the universal aim of getting more money either from consumers, in the form of fees, or from advertisers, in terms of additional revenue for commercial time.
CW says its pricing combines selling packages just like TV. That may be an issue for its advertisers, who feel the experience isn't of the same value as a big-screen TV experience.
One thing's for sure: CW's young viewers are not waiting around for those marketers to decide. Viewers are headed to the Internet with those marketers -- or without them.