Last May The CW (a subsidiary of CBS (NYSE:CBS)) picked up five series for its 2013-2014 lineup -- three of those have aired, two of which have already been renewed for next season. Now it's Star-Crossed's turn. The drama will premiere tonight and its success will help determine the network's 2014 fall plans.
The teen drama centers on a race of aliens known as Atrians who land on Earth and are segregated into their own gated (and guarded) community. Ten years later the decision is made to attempt to integrate a handful of their teenagers into Earth's schools, over the objections of the community. 90210 alum Matt Lanter plays Roman, one of the "selected" teens, who finds himself attracted to Emery (Friday Night Lights star Aimee Teegarden), a human who begins to realize the pair may have met that fateful night a decade ago.
Lanter and Teegarden are clearly no strangers to teen dramas. Lanter appeared in four seasons of The CW's 90210 remake and Teegarden was a regular throughout the five-season run of the Emmy-winning Friday Night Lights. They know teen angst, and they bring with them a strong teen following that executives hope will benefit Star-Crossed.
The CW specializes in this niche, but that doesn't always mean those shows click with audiences. Its advertisers are generally content with its smaller, but specialized viewership. Still, the CW's ratings border on levels that by other networks' standards would signal impending cancellation.
For example, Star-Crossed will air Monday nights at 8 p.m. paired with Beauty & The Beast, which this season has seen a sizable sophomore slump. Beast's last airing was viewed by 775,000 viewers and had a 18-49 demo rating of 0.3. To be fair, that was up against the Olympics -- the week prior it was seen by 930,000 viewers with a 0.4 rating, which is more in line with averages.
Still, when your show can't clear a million viewers and consistently falls below a 1.0 demo rating, you're fighting to avoid the axe.
Although the more established show is generally placed ahead of the rookie to help drive viewers, The CW is shifting Beast to 9 p.m. with the hopes it will benefit from the debut of Crossed.
The odd man out is Hart of Dixie, which will take its winter break and return next month on Friday nights.
Dixie is in its third season and about to be in its fourth time slot. While it tops a million viewers a week, it once hovered closer to a million and half. The rub here is that the series needs one more season to give it a real shot at syndication, which would give its distributors, CBS and Warner Brothers, a chunk of added revenue.
Normally, when a show gets this close to that magic syndication number, it's a safe bet for renewal. But Dixie wasn't among the network's early renewals last week. The decision signals that The CW is waiting to see how Dixie does on its new night, but more importantly how Star-Crossed and next month's teen action drama The 100 do before making any other commitments.
Last year The CW barely made any cuts, surprising given that it only has 10 hours of programming a week, the least of any of the five broadcast networks. It's not likely the network will go light on cancellations again this year as the network has a much stronger development slate with series like The Flash waiting in the wings.
Crossed is not going to have an easy road -- the Olympics are still going and the other major networks (save for CBS) will be airing originals tonight. Next week won't get any better -- CBS will be returning its comedies and NBC brings back The Voice for its 2014 premiere.
If Crossed is going to make an impact for The CW, it's going to have to be with its debut. Otherwise, it just may not be in the stars.
Brett Gold owns shares of CBS. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.