The CW Brings a New Night to the Market

The CW is bringing something unusual to this year’s upfront: a whole new night of programming.

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In February, the network, a joint venture of CBS and Warner Bros., announced it will broadcast original shows on Sunday nights. But to Rob Tuck, executive vice president for ad sales at The CW, the network is not just adding another night, but two more hours of original content.

The difference is that The CW’s young viewers are less likely to be gathered around the TV set on Sunday at 8 p.m. than most networks’ consumers. Instead they’ll watch whenever they want on digital devices ranging from connected TV to mobile phone.

Already Selling on Convergence

That digital demographic was one reason why The CW was an early mover in selling its advertising based on convergence, which means selling traditional and online viewing together, Tuck pointed out.

“We had to transform ourselves many, many years ago, because our audience was there,” he said, adding that while traditional ratings are eroding, multiplatform viewing of the network should be up by the end of the year.

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The CW rolled out its own formula for planning and buying cross-platform ad schedules seven years ago.

“Obviously, our peers have all adopted it in some form,” he said. “It’s got a bunch of different names, but the concept is all there. The concept is the same.”

In April, NBCUniversal announced it would be using CFlight, a metric that combines linear and digital viewing, as its currency in the upfront. Other networks have adopted “fluidity,” which allows a network to fulfill audience guarantees using viewers watching on either traditional TV or digital.

“I applaud all the different models that are out there and what everybody’s trying to do, but the basis of it is we still have to have one overall rating so that you can really track what you’re doing across the different platforms,” Tuck said. “It just makes sense.” The CW’s size and its concentration on primetime shows for younger viewers makes fancy metrics and audience buying less of a priority than other channels that have other dayparts and a broader range of viewers.

Still, having a single way of measuring TV is important for advertisers and their agencies.

“Some form of uniformity would make a lot of sense and make it easier for us as well as everybody else,” Tuck said. “I don’t think the business is there yet in figuring that out.”

Tuck said The CW is testing Nielsen’s DTVR (Digital TV Ratings). “But we’ve got our eyes on a bunch of other things,” he added.

Benefiting From Current Trends

Though some analysts predict ad spending on TV to be flat to down in the future, Tuck said this is a good time for The CW to be adding programming. Advertisers are looking for more of the kind of content TV networks provide, in order to reach consumers as traditional ratings decline.

The CW will benefit from other trends in the industry, including the ad reductions going on at networks including Fox, NBC and the Turner channels. Dollars may also shake out of YouTube and other digital players because of concerns over safe content, viewabilty and measurement, Tuck said.

“I do think there is definitely an appetite to have more of the premium original content for our platform and so I just think that’s going to be an opportunity there,” he said. “We’re small, so we’re not going to change the dynamics of supply and demand in the market. But for us, this is big.”

Jon Lafayette

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.