It's upfront time...that annual event where the major broadcast and cable networks go all out trying to convince advertisers their slates will give them the best return on investment. While the entire event is catered to the business world, analysts and viewers can learn a lot about the where television is headed starting this fall.
The CW (a subsidiary of CBS (NYSE:CBS)) made big news last year when executives brought back nearly all of its bubble series. Given that the network has the least primetime real estate of any of the major broadcasters, people were shocked. However The CW also has fewer series than its rivals and trails only Fox in effectively utilizing the "13-episode" season model.
This year though the axe is going to be swinging.
What's in danger?
The CW has six series in limbo and a development slate with some buzzworthy projects so something's got to go to make room. The two series most likely to stick around are third-year show Hart of Dixie and rookie The 100, but for different reasons.
Dixie needs just one more season to reach syndication status and in the process create an extra source of revenue for both its network and studio. To pull a show off the air "this close" to achieving a new layer of profitability is foolish...yes it's happened before, but it is rare. Dixie should get the nod but likely will remain in a sort of "exile" on Friday nights.
With The 100, the series started off hot, but then came crashing down in subsequent airings. Working in the show's favor are a recent uptick in the all-important 18-49 demo and the continued appeal of projects set in a Hunger Games/Divergent post-apocalyptical world. The twist here is that the show is very serialized, which could scare away new viewers, but I also think there's a good chance audiences will use the summer to binge-watch the drama once they are assured of a second season.
The other bubble shows are going to run into some problems. Many believe The Carrie Diaries' second season finale could have easily been its series finale, so that wouldn't be a surprise if it's cut, which leaves Beauty and the Beast, The Tomorrow People, and Star-Crossed.
As odd as it sounds the oft-shuffled Beast reportedly has the inside edge. Personally I can't figure that one out -- the show doesn't deliver in the 18-49 demo or the ratings and somehow survived its first season. Tomorrow People and Star-Crossed don't deliver either, but Tomorrow had the allure of Robbie Amell, cousin of Arrow lead Stephen Amell. Executives loved the idea of having the two on the network...although if that stays the case I wouldn't be shocked to see Robbie join his cousin on Arrow, because that series isn't going anywhere.
So what are the new shows forcing this change? The first ties back to Arrow and its series spin-off The Flash. Super-hero series are in The CW's DNA thanks to its relationship with Warner Brothers. Arrow has been an angel series for the network and all signs point to The Flash being one as well. This one should be considered a lock for the fall schedule and that's good news for fans and executives.
The other big series is the spin-off of Supernatural, tentatively entitled Supernatural: Bloodlines. Supernatural is the net's longest running show and all involved want to see the offshoot succeed. Although not as much of a lock as Flash, Bloodlines is going to be given every opportunity to make the schedule, even if early buzz on tonight's backdoor pilot is mixed.
Among the other contenders are iZombie, which is also based on a DC comic and being shepherded by Veronica Mars producer Rob Thomas, plus the religious-tinged soap Jane The Virgin, family drama Identity, and sci-fi thriller The Messengers. Overall The CW only has six pilots -- last year executives took five shows so it's entirely possible all of these get the green light just with staggered releases.
The CW had a nice fall with two of its three debuting series (The Originals and Reign) being among the network's first wave of renewals, which also included the aforementioned network hits Arrow and Supernatural as well as the ultra-popular The Vampire Diaries. It may still take another season or two but The CW is growing and is beginning to find its audience. When it finally all connects it will become a much more powerful force and a much more lucrative draw for advertisers.