If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know I’m an avid watcher of The CW network. I get a good amount of heckling for being a vocal proponent of The CW. I’m fine with that because I know I’m enjoying a lot of good programming. However, it has come to my attention that my hecklers are sadly misinformed about The CW. The general public seems to be suffering from a number of misconceptions that I’m here to clear up. And no, the network doesn’t pay me anything; I just really like their shows.
Myth #1: The CW is for teenagers.
The CW’s target market has never been teenagers. It is true that The CW has since its inception in 2006 targeted the 18-34 demographic. The network has purposely skewed young, but not under 18. Even this has changed in the past two years. According to the LA Times, the network has realized it had become a bit too niche and is employing more the strategy of aging with their viewers. The current median age of a CW viewer is 41.
Myth #2: The CW is for girls.
First off, I used girls because most people say girls, but I think we’ve at least established the term should be women. Now, I’ll give you that the network skews female centric currently, but efforts have been made to correct that and even more are being made. The network’s longest running show, Supernatural, is absolutely a show that guys could like. It’s about two brothers that drive a muscle car around the country and hunt ghosts, demons, and other things that go bump in the night. It also happens to be hilarious and is done by the same people that do NBC’s Revolution. Plus, most of Sleepy Hollow’s best ideas were stolen from this show. I’ve introduced a couple of guys to Supernatural, and they’ve ended up binge-watching years of it.
Other shows guys might enjoy include Arrow (based on the DC comic) and The Tomorrow People (about an underground group with the powers of telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation). There’s also a midseason pilot called The 100 set 97 years after a nuclear war, about human survivors on a spaceship traveling back to Earth to recolonize the planet. So come this winter, four of CW’s ten primetime shows will guy-friendly.
Myth #3: The CW is the home of lame high school melodramas.
This is a reputation that the network earned with some poor programming choices early on and by letting a few shows that might have started off good air for too many seasons. Yes, the CW brought you the reboots of 90210 and Melrose Place, Gossip Girl (sadly I never liked this show for more than its wardrobe even when it was supposed to be good), and nine(!) seasons of One Tree Hill.
When Mark Pedowitz took over as the new network President in 2011, he made some dramatic changes in programming, which is really when I started consistently watching more myself. First off, you’re rarely going to see the inside of a high school these days. There is only one show that consistently takes place in a high school—The Carrie Diaries, which is a prequel of sorts to Sex in the City. Plus, Carrie’s on her way out. The CW only ordered 13 episodes this season, and once they’re done, so’s the show (TV By the Numbers).
There are more shows that feature a character or two that is high school age. I think the younger sister in Arrow is still in high school, but I’ve never seen her go to class. Two of the characters in The Tomorrow People are that age, but the majority of the cast is older. Even the cast of The Vampire Diaries has aged out of high school, not that they ever went to anything but an occasional school dance anyway.
CW shows are predominantly about characters in their twenties or early thirties (gee, that should sound familiar and like every other network). The one notable exception is the new show Reign, which is definitely about teens, and the network even made a better effort than normal to cast people that looked like teenagers. The show does not feel anything like a high school melodrama, however. The plot follows Mary Queen of Scots at the French Court when she first arrives to marry the Prince Francis. There’s no getting in with the popular kids or the normal sort of teen angst you’d find in the old kind of CW high school drama. Instead you have assassination plots, teenage girls weighing whether it’s a better move to become the wife of an old guy noble or the second mistress of a king, and Mary trying to win military support for her country when her only negotiating chip is her hand in marriage. I’d never really thought about what history was like when teenagers were ruling countries, but this show does, and it’s fascinating.
Myth #4: Nobody watches it anyway. I shouldn’t get attached because it will probably fold soon.
The CW is actually experiencing steady 9% year-over-year growth. The network’s numbers have also initially been hurt by the traditional Nielsen ratings system that only accounts for live viewing. Once DVR viewing and streaming numbers are added, its shows’ numbers often double. The CW has increased its digital streaming by 50% over the last year, and a full 40% of its audience comes from streaming (TV.com). Instead of being penalized for this, advertisers are finally waking up and realizing this is the future of how audiences are going to consume TV, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing that the CW has a jump start on its competition.
Its shows are doing well overseas, too. Arrow might be #63 in the US, but it’s currently the #1 show in the U.K., Hungary, and the Netherlands (Entertainment Weekly). Although I do wish Spain would stop propping up Beauty and the Beast’s numbers because that show is one of the few lemons the network has left.
Up Next: A newbie’s guide to The CW. Now that you know what The CW is not, I’ll introduce to what it is.