Is it good to be a TV network anomaly? In an age of big TV distribution changes, it may be best to mimic The CW's lone-wolf approach.
“CW has always been an outlier of broadcasting,” said Mark Pedowitz, president of The CW, at the Television Critics Association meeting in Beverly Hills, California. “The one thing I am confident of is the way The CW is situated today as a multiplatform player. It's going to be around for a hell of a long time.”
Indeed, The CW embraced alternative digital TV viewing long before other TV networks. In some ways, it had to. That’s where its young viewers were headed. And although it lacks easily digestible TV-digital measurements, it continues to find the right programming to match viewing trends.
For many, the big question is whether traditional TV networks can make the transition to new, small “skinny” TV network bundles. Many analysts feel they will replace the high-priced traditional pay TV cable, satellite or telco packages.
Some research -- and rogue opinions from TV Watch -- suggests that millennials and young viewers may not even want to buy “skinny” TV packages. Maybe young consumers will cobble together an endless array of apps, websites, free YouTube channels and other platforms tailored to their needs.
With better data to monetize their content, networks could be looking at a more hopeful future. Pedowitz says: “You'll eventually see our numbers will be much higher, once Nielsen gets to the point where it can measure the digital views, as well as everything else.”
Take CW’s initial year of “Riverdale.” “I wish the linear ratings were slightly higher,” admitted Pedowitz. But he was comforted by Rick Haskins, CW's EVP of marketing and digital programs, who told Pedowitz: “‘Don't worry. The numbers will come out in delayed viewing and in digital.’ Ad you know what? They did.”
The show is also on Netflix, and Pedowitz says: “From what we've heard, through anecdotal conversation, it's a big hit on Netflix. We're seeing massive responses to it on social media. How that translates come the fall, whether it will impact our linear ratings or it impacts our digital, I don't care. As long as people are watching it, they can find it, and we're happy.”
Whether thriving -- or treading water -- one thing is for sure: Big premium TV shows will always be in demand. The question is who can hold on until the big payday arrives.