The CW CEO Confirms WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS "Exploring" Network Options

UPDATE 11:31 AM ET: Following up on our report from earlier today that WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS were looking to sell their majority holdings in The CW, the network's chairman & CEO Mark Pedowitz has addressed the matter with the staff via a memo obtained by Variety. While reassuring the team that it was "too early to speculate what might happen," Pedowitz did confirm that the two companies were "exploring strategic opportunities to optimize the value of their joint venture in The CW Network." Here's a look at the full memo:

To Our Valued CW Team

I am sure you have seen the recent speculation in the press around The CW, so I wanted to take the opportunity to address this with you directly and share with you what we know.

First, as many of you are aware, over the past year or so, this transformative time in our industry has led to a series of business activity across media and content companies. Given that environment right now, ViacomCBS and Warner Bros. are exploring strategic opportunities to optimize the value of their joint venture in The CW Network.

It's too early to speculate what might happen, but we promise to keep you updated as we learn more.

So, what does this mean for us right now? It means we must continue to do what we do best, make The CW as successful and vibrant as we have always done. We have a lot of work ahead of us – with more original programming than ever, this season's expansion to Saturday night, our growing digital and streaming platforms – and we thrive when we come together and build The CW together.

Mark

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Arrow (Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved)

ORIGINAL POST: Is the Arrowverse about to have a new owner? Based on reporting from The Wall Street Journal, that would seem to be the case as corporate owners ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia are shopping the broadcast network. And from the sounds of things, they have a major potential buyer in Nexstar, which makes sense considering the major player in the local TV scene owns 199 local TV stations and is one of the largest owners of CW-affiliated stations (along with cable channel NewsNation and The Hill). For those of you not familiar with Nexstar and NewsNation, the channel was in the headlines in March 2021 over staff departures and accusations that the news coverage was moving towards a more conservative, right-wing slant.

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Arrowverse crossover "Crisis on Infinite Earths" (Image: The CW)

Now before we get to the speculation, some of the facts in play you should know. Ever since the UPN and The WB Network merge in 2006, The CW has never pulled a profit, with a heavy chunk of the monies made coming from international and streaming sales. Do you see where this is going? Yup, now that WarnerMedia has HBO Max and ViacomCBS has Paramount+, international and streaming revenue have taken major hits as the companies look to bring their content back into the warm embrace of their own streaming services (look no further than the recently-ended deal with Netflix). And with the growing access that streaming services are having globally, the need to sell to a foreign market directly has pretty much dried up. And don't think for a second that WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS leaving won't change the face of The CW. Warners has long been a major supplier of content (The Flash, Superman & Lois, Batwoman, Arrow, etc.) while ViacomCBS' CBS Studios offers scripted programming like Charmed and Dynasty. And anything on the network that isn't based on their properties ends up becoming a co-production between the two.

So now the speculation, with two areas of concern. First, Nexstar's reported move towards more conservative reporting with NewsNation does exactly make me feel all warm-n-fuzzy when it comes to the programming The CW might go with moving forward. Owned by a company with that many stations under its belt and where large chunks of those stations are located could be very telling, and I can't shake this feeling that we'll be getting less Naomi and Charmed and a ton more game shows, reality, shows, and "wholesome, family-friendly programming" (a vomited a little in my mouth just writing that).

As for what this could mean for the "Arrowverse"? On The CW, I think you might be seeing the beginning of the end. With The Flash, I would still be surprised to see the series go longer than Arrow did (though a Season 9 renewal by the time you read this would really make this take look bad). That would effectively be the third and final foundational strike to what was once the Arrowverse, with Arrow and Supergirl already having shuffled off the programming coil. Now relax, DC's Legends of Tomorrow fans! No disrespect! In fact, just the opposite. Both DC's Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman are quality shows that aren't dependant on their Arrowverse connections to be successful. And considering that "multiverses" are all the craze right now, DC's LOT fits nicely with the new game plan moving forward. And then we have the newer shows such as DC's Stargirl, Superman & Lois, and the upcoming Naomi. What's the one thing all three of those shows have in common? All three have been credited with vibing differently than other DCU shows that The CW's hosted. Those three shows would only benefit from a move to streaming… which is where this is all going.

Because HBO Max is already looking to build up its live-action DCU, with Green Lantern, Justice League Dark, and other projects in development. So what better way to boost your "HBOMaxverse" (I know you hated that the moment you read it) than bring aboard 3-4 other series? Then you have DC's LOT and Naomi to be the "bridges" between universes that can function separately to build their own "mini-verses." And if Warners learned anything recently from Disney with the Netflix/MCU issue, it's that you don't have to get rid of the past. A multiverse means never having to say you're sorry. The benefit of a move to streaming means much more creative flexibility and (potentially) better budgets to bring that creativity to life. The downside for fans is that it takes quality geek programming out of prime time and creates yet another paywall for viewers. But with HBO Max recently posting strong subscription numbers and Paramount+ growing its global presence (as Taylor Sheridan's ratings domination continues), the drive for new, heat-generating content will make moves like these more the norm than the exception.

And if you're ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX, and you're viewing this news as the beginning of the end of the broadcasting networks as we've known them for generations? If you see your future as filled with reality shows, game shows, live sports, and the occasional limited series or joint-venture series? You're not being paranoid. You're starting to see the writing on the wall much clearer. Stay tuned…

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About Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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