The CW Holds On To '90210'; Will Critics And Viewers Let Go?

In the TV marketing game, CW is doing the poker-playing equivalent of going "all in" when it comes to handling "90210."

The CW, in a shrewd and perhaps daring marketing move, is withholding the premiere "screener" of the highly anticipated sequel to the famed Fox Network show, whose success or failure may take the troubled network along the same direction.

The network's logic is that it wants to release the series premiere episode on 9-02 (as in 90210) so the whole world can get the full brunt of the highly anticipated premiere at the same time. The CW's aim is to give the series a big initial push for higher ratings and sampling, which, in turn, will bring people back the next week.

But reading between the lines gives TV critics obvious food for thought: Does the show already have problems?

In CW's way isn't just the wrath of TV critics, who have already gone through this summer with just a scant number of TV screeners for the new fall season, but those entrepreneurial Web-minded TV spoilers who will find ways to copy that episode and put it online.

Consider what happened with "Gossip Girl" -- CW's prized, but not highly rated, new show of a year ago. CW held back official online viewing of the show because this viewing, as well as the rash of illegal copies already floating around the Internet, was hurting the traditional TV viewing of the show.

But CW relented, realizing this activity wasn't going to stop. It at least wanted to get a piece of the action on its own Web area, in terms of online advertising revenue -- modest though those sales are.

The "all-in" bet goes like this: Now, TV critics will be harder on the show when it comes out. CW is betting one of two things will happen ---that it won't make a difference, and the show will get higher ratings anyway. Or, more remote possibility: TV critics will love it, and will get high ratings as well.

Of course there is the third option: TV critics will snub the show, and viewers will shrug their shoulders and deliver microscopic Nielsen metrics. All of which would elicit one socially appropriate, less-than-euphoric response for CW's core viewers: OMFG



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