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Final Seasons for 'The Flash' and 'Riverdale' as Network Shifts

So what’s going on at The CW anyway?

No one seems to know, especially the creators who made the network a homebase for plugged in teens, superhero fans and admirers of off-beat television. 

A slew of recent pieces in The Hollywood Reporter have given fans and observers a sense of the future of the network, which canceled a whopping ten shows this year, including the cultishly beloved DC Comics program “Legends of Tomorrow,” and also renewed “The Flash,” and “Riverdale,” once two of its most popular programs, for abbreviated final seasons. 

This move left The CW with just 11 programs, and nearly everyone who was paying attention was left with a lot of questions.

So What’s Going On Over At The CW?

We recently went in-depth on the history of The CW

But to recap briefly, The CW was a joint venture between the companies now known as Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) and Paramount Global (PARA), who combined their struggling networks The WB and The UPN into one network in 2006. Its opening season featured the final seasons of two of the networks most beloved programs, “Gilmore Girls” and “Veronica Mars.”

Even in this combined form, The CW wasn’t really able to compete with networks like ABC or cable giants like HBO. But it didn’t really need to, and it also didn’t really need to make money from advertising. 

Instead, as we noted, “Paramount and Warner Bros made money from licensing fees and the foreign rights to shows such as ‘Dynasty.’ In particular a $1 billion dollar deal with Netflix ((NFLX)) that began in 2011, in which entire seasons would appear on the streaming service a week after they were completed, proved to be highly lucrative for the network.”

Over the years, Netflix became the home for fans of comic book TV shows, as its adaptations of characters from DC, starting with “Arrow” and its spin-off “The Flash,” were considered by fans more fun and less dour than the films DC was making at the time. 

And as noted by The Hollywood Reporter, now departed President Mark Pedowitz brought a patient, nurturing approach to the network, allowing truly oddball shows like “Riverdale” to develop into hits, and didn’t seem too concerned that many fans thought it was a Netflix show. 

He also supported wild creative experiments such as “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’ a comedy musical about mental health, and “Jane the Virgin,” an updated, meta telenovela, both of which earned critical acclaim and the network’s first-ever Golden Globe nominations and a win for “Virgin” star Rodriguez, while “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”won a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award for actress and co-creator Rachel Bloom. 

Perhaps his greatest achievement, however, is that he made The CW a network that represented the world we actually live in, as “two-thirds of The CW’s showrunners, writers and directors working on its original scripted series were women and/or people of color,” in the 2021-22 season,

And “ GLAAD also singled out The CW as the broadcast network with the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars for the fifth year in a row.”

The CW

So What’s The Deal With The CW Now?

After Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global debuted their streaming platforms, they felt less inclined to continue to license their shows to Netflix, preferring, for example, to reboot “Gossip Girl” for HBO Max. 

The CW did not renew its Netflix deal in 2019, and retained its international rights. The network was no longer profitable, and was eventually sold to Nexstar (NXST), the largest owner of local television stations in the U.S., and the largest owner of CW affiliates. While streaming might be considered the wave of the future, Nexstar has a lock on a profitable, if kind of unsexy, niche.

Pedowitz reportedly planned to stay at The CW, but discussions with Nexstar leadership, which now officially owns the network, fell apart over what “some suggest were issues over his reporting structure and the direction they planned to take the network.” Marketing boss Rick Haskins and finance chief Mitch Nedick have also left the company.

Nexstar CEO Perry Sook and new CW president Dennis Miller (who is not related to the comedian, but has worked at Sony, Lionsgate TV and TNT), have not revealed much about their plans for the network, and super-producer Greg Berlanti, the architect of the DC Comics-based “Arrowverse” of shows, says he has not heard from the new executives about their vision for the network.

But people love to talk in Hollywood, and unnamed sources have revealed a few clues for what direction the network might be taking.

  • According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the CW’s former owners Warner Bros. and Paramount, which each retain a 12.5% share in the network, “will continue to produce 12 original, scripted series for the network primarily to air during 2022 / 2023 broadcast season.” (It takes a while to get a show ready, so this seems optimistic, but maybe a few can be ready by early 2023.)
  • The network wants to go broader, and age-up from its current demographic of 18 to 34.
  • The network is looking to become profitable by 2025, and to cut down on its licensing fees; its “Walker” show (a remake of “Walker, Texas Ranger”) costs $3 million an episode. 
  • Miller is said to be interested in acquiring more low-cost unscripted programs in the vein of “World’s Funniest Animals,” and wants to invest in cheap to make multi-camera sitcoms.
  • It is uncertain if the network wants to continue to make shows based on DC Comics. After “The Flash” ends it will only have the DC shows “Superman & Lois,” “Stargirl” and the upcoming Batman spin-off “Gotham Knights” on the slate.