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Already a home to vampires, demon hunters and costumed vigilantes, The CW is banking on even more genre programming and a smattering of comedy to help shed what president Mark Pedowitz called its “OMFG image” at the net’s upfront presentation May 15.
“You might have noticed, we’re a very different CW than we were a few years back,” Pedowitz said. “When I first started here in 2011, the perception was we were the Gossip Girl network.” Pedowitz touted the network’s recent growth—both in hours of original programming aired and in audience. This season in most current Nielsen ratings (live-plus-seven-day, and live-plus-same-day for the two most recent weeks) The CW is averaging a 0.8 among adults 18-49, up from a 0.7 in each of the two prior seasons. The network is currently averaging 1.9 million viewers versus 1.8 million in 2012-13 and 1.7 million in 2011-12.
“We needed to expand our reach to a bigger and wider group while still serving our 18-34 audience,” Pedowitz said.
One of Pedowitz’s stated goals has been to bring male viewers back to the network. Arrow, based on the DC Comics character, appears to have done that. The series consistently draws higher ratings among men than women. The May 14 finale of season two drew a 1.0 overnight Nielsen rating among men 18- 49, versus a 0.7 for women in the demo.
So, it’s no surprise that one of the network’s two new fall series is The Flash, an Arrow spinoff based on a DC character whose history—which includes a previous and ill-fated attempt at adaptation to television by CBS in the 1990-91 season—dates back to the 1940s. Produced by Arrow’s Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, the series will premiere at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. In a conference call with reporters the morning of the upfront presentation, Pedowitz hinted that The Flash may have been scheduled there only after the network learned that ABC would be moving superhero series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. out of that time period to 9 p.m. the same night. “Sometimes it’s good to be opportunistic,” Pedowitz said.
Long a home exclusively to hour-long dramas, the network is bringing comedy back, again in the hopes of broadening the audience. The network showed the upfront crowd a trailer for Backpackers, one of two scripted half-hour comedies it will air this summer. The show is the first to be picked up from digital unit CW Seed. This fall, improv showcase Whose Line Is It Anyway? will premiere in the 8 p.m. Friday time period, with a rerun of the show following at 8:30.
Asked during the conference call whether another half-hour comedy might eventually be placed at 8:30 p.m., Pedowitz said, “We’re excited to have Backpackers coming on this summer. We utilize CW Seed as we need it. If we find the next one, we could do that.” One option could be Play it Again, Dick, a Veronica Mars spinoff being developed for CW Seed, which Pedowitz teased at the upfront.
Hour-long comedy Jane the Virgin—the network’s other new fall show—will premiere at 9 p.m. Monday following returning freshman The Originals, which relocates from Tuesday night. Supernatural, entering its 10th season, will remain at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, where it will follow The Flash. The network had ordered a pilot this season for a spinoff show, Supernatural: Bloodlines, but passed. Pedowitz told reporters that he has already told studio Warner Bros. Television that he would like to take another swing at developing a Supernatural spinoff for the 2015-16 season.
Arrow and The 100 will continue to be paired together on Wednesday nights, as will The Vampire Diaries and Reign on Thursdays. America’s Next Top Model will follow Whose Line on Fridays.
Two other new series, iZombie and The Messengers, will be held until midseason.
THE ROOKIE CLASS
JANE THE VIRGIN: Gina Rodriguez plays a young woman who abstains from sex, but becomes pregnant when accidentally inseminated during what she though would be just a routine pap smear.
THE FLASH: Based on the classic DC Comics character, this Arrow spinoff stars Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, a crime-scene investigator who, through a freak accent, gains the power of super-speed. Arrow’s Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg will executive produce.
IZOMBIE: A woman, played by Rose McIver, works in a morgue and hides the fact that she’s a zombie. She teams with a police detective, using her power to see the memories of people whose brains she has eaten to help solve crimes. Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas executive produces.
THE MESSENGERS: Five unrelated people affected by a mysterious blast become harbingers of the rapture. Trey Callaway and Basil Iwanyk serve as executive producers.