The business of television is on full display now as the networks spend tons of money trying to convince advertisers, investors, and audiences that their new slate of programming is the most profitable. This week it's the major broadcasters' turn as NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, and The CW will unveil all-new schedules as the "upfront" season reaches its climax.
After a week of celeb sightings, statistics touting, and big reveals, the upfront season has now come to an end as The CW (a subsidiary of CBS (NASDAQ:VIAC)) rounded out the presentations by the big five broadcasters. While the network had already made its pickups clear last week, its schedule still yielded a few fun surprises that will make for some interesting choices by viewers this fall.
Riskiest move – Keeping things (mostly) status quo
While many networks blew up their schedules this week, The CW kept its lineup largely intact with three of the five nights remaining unchanged. Then again when your network is coming off its best viewership in three years you can see why executives are confident enough to leave Wednesday through Friday alone. But it's risky because the other networks have shuffled the decks, so it will be interesting to see if that changes viewers' preferences in the fall.
The CW programs just 10 hours a week, the least of all the major broadcasters. As a result there isn't much room to go as wild as its rivals. That said, this is still one of the least changed rosters in recent memory -- the only real shift aside from the addition of new series The Flash and Jane the Virgin is moving The Originals to Monday.
That last move will mark the first time the network has led off with a genre show in that timeslot. Of more concern to me is how The Originals does a lead-in for Virgin -- the two are on opposite sides of the spectrum. While Originals is a spinoff of The Vampire Dairies, Virgin is an adaptation of a Venezuelan soap about a driven and religious young woman who is artificially inseminated by accident. It's an odd partnership.
Boldest move – Holding back for midseason
Last year the network held two of its five pickups for midseason and this year it will do the same with the buzzy iZombie and intriguing The Messengers slated for 2015. Of the four new series Flash had the most hype and Jane the Virgin had the least. That might mean coming out of the gate a little slower.
If Virgin finds an audience, midseason will be interesting. Space at the network is tight, but having a deeper bench of shows allows it to battle other networks' reruns with new fresh shows in the back half of the year. Executives can sub in a new series or an established show like (the waiting in the wings) Beauty and the Beast and Hart of Dixie.
The pair will likely slide onto the schedule in the spring (or earlier should the opportunity presents itself), but I think Flash is a lock to succeed and Virgin will get time to prove itself. Regardless iZombie is getting the same type of buzz as Flash as that's going to be a strong weapon in the network's arsenal. The Messengers shows similarities in style and tone to the network's The 100, which ended up being a reliable hit this midseason.
Most interesting move – Tuesday with Flash
While the partnership of The Originals and Jane the Virgin is still a little confusing, the alliance of The Flash and Supernatural makes sense. In addition to both being sci-fi based, Flash is one of the network's most anticipated shows in some time and Supernatural is one of the network's longest-running of all time. The two should share similar audiences and play well off each other.
It's also a huge show of confidence by The CW. Since the network's inception every series slotted in that Tuesday's at 8 p.m. timeslot has become a megahit. The list of success stories includes The Vampire Diaries (and spinoff The Originals), 90210, and Arrow. Both Originals and Arrow were also launched with Supernatural, which speaks volumes for expectations.
Some had expected The CW to slot Arrow and Flash together given Flash is technically a spinoff of Arrow, but as appealing as a two-hour block featuring the two DC Comics legends was, I understand the desire to keep them separate -- it now gives the network the ability to open an additional night with a drama based on the red-hot superhero genre.
Speaking of Supernatural, executives made it clear just because its spinoff Bloodlines didn't work, that didn't mean they'd give up. Audiences should expect another attempt in 2015. Given the success of Originals and the expected success of Flash, spinoffs are a hot commodity for the network and this season could give that argument even more credibility.