May 17, 2018

NIELSENWAR: CW Fall Schedule & Analysis (With Full 5-Network Grid)


Welcome to Upfronts week, when the broadcast networks (or what’s left of them) announce their Fall schedules and attempt to generate billions of dollars worth of excitement from advertisers.  It’s harder than ever to authoritatively analyze the thought process that goes into a broadcaster’s cancellation, renewal and pick-up decisions, because network ad revenues directly tied to 18-49 ratings are now just a piece of the puzzle.  Other projected and actual revenue streams, especially international and SVOD deals (all of which require some level of ownership by the network’s affiliated studio), are now at least as important, as is delayed viewing on multiple platforms–when that viewing includes commercials.  Much of that information is kept away from the public, requiring guesswork on the part of observers.

CW is in some ways the most interesting of the broadcast networks, and perhaps the one with the most relevance to the industry’s future.  It works on a different economic model than its counterparts, essentially in a partnership with Netflix.  The streaming service licenses most of the network’s shows for a hefty share of the production cost, allowing CW to pay low license fees and subsist on ratings other networks can’t survive–which in term means micr0-rated shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend can run for years–and in return, Netflix gets an early window for its own exhibition, usually as soon as the broadcast season is over.  The result doesn’t seem to hurt the CW ratings, and it’s given the network a healthy enough set of finances that while other networks are seeking ways to reduce their scripted footprint, CW is actually expanding next fall to Sunday nights.  Creatively, CW is as mindful of its own target audience as CBS is, aimed at a sweet spot of younger adults with a mix of superhero shows and soaps, most from the portfolio of uber-producer Greg Berlanti.  Nothing in the fall schedule will change any of that.

A rundown of the fall line-up is after the chart:

Fall 2018 Broadcast Primetime Schedule NBC FOX ABC CBS CW



8PM:  Legends of Tomorrow

9PM:  Arrow

Arrow‘s ratings have declined, and it won’t be helped by a Legends lead-in, since that’s been the weakest (and creatively, most scattershot) of the Berlanti/DC Comics series.  Arrow will have a new showrunner next season, and will hope to generate some renewed enthusiasm among its fans, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the first of the network’s superhero shows begin to ease its way towards the barn.


8PM:  The Flash

9PM:  Black Lightning

A no-brainer:  The Flash isn’t the ratings powerhouse (in CW terms) that it used to be, but it’s still the top of the superhero shows, and Black Lightning has thrived as its lead-out.  The latter has been so strong, in fact, that it could be moved to an anchor slot of its own on another night if needed.


8PM:  Riverdale


Riverdale didn’t sustain its early fall gains, but it’s a mid-level success that gets lots of social media attention.  The introduction of ALL AMERICAN pairs it with another high school soap (and yet another Berlanti production), this one set in the world of football, for what should be a compatible match.


8PM:  Supernatural


Supernatural is in its 2nd decade, and apparently going nowhere soon.  It will lead viewers into LEGACIES, the latest continuation of Julie Plec’s gothic saga that began with The Vampire Diaries and spun off into The OriginalsLEGACIES, which centers around the teen daughters of Originals characters, returns the franchise to its high school roots.


8PM:  Dynasty

9PM:  Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

CW’s one business downside is that it’s obligated, formally or not, to air some shows produced by CBS Productions, which shares ownership of the network with Warners, the studio that supplies the bulk of the line-up.  That’s led to the renewal of Dynasty despite ratings that are woeful even by CW standards.  On the other hand, it’s helped sustain the acclaimed but little-watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to a 4th and final season.


8PM:  Supergirl


The network isn’t trying anything fancy with its expansion to Sundays, with an eye to the young female audience neglected by the other broadcasters that night.  Supergirl, which was originally a CBS show, has the most comfortable ensemble of the DC shows, and it will be followed by the rebooted CHARMED, which hails from the creative team behind Jane the Virgin, and will presumably be one of the lighter entries in the network’s supernatural inventory.

CW has the detective procedural IN THE DARK for midseason and the aliens-in-high-school reboot ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO, along with the returns of The 100 and the final seasons of Jane the Virgin and IZombie.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."