The CW expands to seven nights a week this fall, adding two hours of primetime programming on Saturdays. Whose Line Is It Anyway? and World’s Funniest Animals hold down the Saturday slots when The CW’s new season begins in October.
Mark Pedowitz, chairman and CEO of The CW, called it “the most significant change” for the network when addressing the press in late May, and a long-term wish for The CW. “Expanding to Saturdays was the goal for us for the past decade,” he said. “We’re excited about the possibilities this opens up for our affiliates and our advertisers.”
As part of the arrangement, The CW returns the 3-4 p.m. ET/PT weekday slot to affiliates. Pedowitz said affiliates were “pretty much on board” from the get-go.
DuJuan McCoy, owner/president/CEO of Circle City Broadcasting, which owns CW affiliate WISH Indianapolis, said he initially had a mixed reaction, but ultimately sees it as a benefit. On the down side, the station offers a lot of local sports on Saturday nights, while on the upside, the daytime shift means Jerry Springer departs WISH.
“We’re super-psyched because now The CW is a full-on, seven-day-a-week network,” said McCoy. “And I like that WISH is getting the extra hour back in daytime. We can produce special local content for that hour, maybe news, maybe lifestyle.”
That’s the strategy at Nexstar Media Group, which owns and/or operates 37 CW affiliates. “Nexstar fully supports The CW’s decision to provide primetime programming every night of the week, including Saturdays, and to return the weekday afternoon time period to local CW affiliates, which we largely plan to use to offer more local programming,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
Gray Television’s WUAB Cleveland has The Big Bad B-Movie Show on Saturdays, with a couple hosts poking fun at a dreadful horror movie. That will back up a bit to 11 p.m. when The CW takes over Saturday prime. Erik Schrader, WOIO-WUAB VP and general manager, called it “a natural progression” for the network, and believes Big Bad B-Movie Show will do fine in the later slot. “It just shows the network has a commitment to primetime,” he said. “The more original content we can get in prime hours, we will definitely take.”
Leading The CW’s efforts to expand were Betty Ellen Berlamino, CW executive VP, network distribution, and Ann Miyagi, senior VP and general counsel.
The CW added Sunday nights in fall 2018, slotting Supergirl and Charmed, Pedowitz noting at the time that both featured “empowered women.” The final 13 episodes of Supergirl start rolling Aug. 24 and Charmed will be on in the mid-season.
New CW shows for 2021-2022 include a remake of missing persons drama 4400, an adult version of Nickelodeon competition series The Legends of the Hidden Temple and a redo of British murder-mystery game show Killer Camp.
Saturday is mostly a rerun wasteland on broadcast TV, but The CW sees opportunity. Pedowitz said programming Saturdays permits the network to market itself every night of the week. “It allows us to, in essence, promote and market our Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays without the gap of Saturday,” he said.
About the Saturday shows, Pedowitz said Whose Line Is It Anyway? has worked in every time period it has been in, and World’s Funniest Animals was a “surprise hit” in the past year. The CW will consider scripted shows on Saturdays down the road, he said.
Rob Tuck, head of national sales at The CW, described the Saturday move as a win. “From a sales perspective, it’s great to have the extra two hours,” he said. “The two hours are not just on linear, they are on digital. With our ability to do full stacks, this will provide us with more additional inventory on the digital platform, which is great.”
Pedowitz believes both network and station partners benefit from the move. “Over the long term,” he said, “I think everyone will make it work.”
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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