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CW Finishes Upfront With Big Ad Price Increases

Javicia Leslie as Batwoman
(Image credit: Katie Yu/The CW)

The CW has concluded its upfront negotiations, selling most of its commercial inventory for the 2021-22 season.

In what was expected to be a hot, post-pandemic market, price increases for ads on the CW were in 19% to 21% range, according to people familiar with the situation.

Prices have been rising in upfront for the last 10 years, but this year’s increases stand to be among the steepest the market has seen, as ratings for traditional linear television networks erode, creating a shortage of supply. That’s driven more money following viewers to streaming, in some cases outlets owned by the parents of TV networks, such as Disney’s Hulu and Fox’s Tubi.

It is complicated to figure out The CW’s ad volume because the network will be programming seven nights next season, up from the current six nights. Sources indicate that The CW picked up volume for both its linear and digital inventory and added a number of new multi-platform clients.

Last month, the CW said it would be airing Whose Line Is It Anyway? And World’s Funniest Animals on its new Saturday nights. New fall shows are 4400, The Legends of the Hidden Temple remake and Killer Camp

With only primetime entertainment programming in its arsenal, The CW is frequently among the first networks to finish its upfront.

This year’s market got off to a fast start with sports an especially hot seller for Fox, Disney and NBCUniversal.

But sources said ViacomCBS and Discovery were holding out for even higher prices and hadn’t done much business.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.