May 16, 2019

NIELSENWAR: The Fall 2019 CW Schedule & Analysis

We’ve reached the broadcast networks’ Upfront Week… which used to be a lot more central to our television lives than it is now.  Ratings everywhere are down, and there’s no reason to think they’ve hit bottom, which has caused seismic changes in the ways networks make scheduling decisions.  Among other things, with revenues from on-air linear advertising shrinking, distribution rights are key, and the desire for flexibility often means shorter orders than the traditional 13 + 9.  We’ll take a look at each network’s new slate as it’s announced.

No network could be happier with its shows than CW, which renewed every single series it had (with the exception of those that were already earmarked for their final seasons).

LAST SEASON:  CW may have more superheroes than any other network, but the ratings are no longer superpowered.  Even The Flash is only a moderate hit in linear numbers, and the renewed shows include some with ratings as low as 0.1 in the 18-49 demo, a sub-cable score.  This makes the decision to let CW’s blanket deal with Netflix lapse a risky one, since it pays for the lion’s share of production costs.  The new shows produced by Warner Bros Television (which includes all the DC series) will probably end up on the parent company’s own new streaming service, while those produced by CBS Studios will be shopped for the best deal.  Only time will tell whether this will damage CW’s branding with its young target audience.

FALL:  As one would expect from a network with an overwhelming number of renewals, the schedule changes are tweaks rather than major shifts.

Monday:  One might call this CW’s African-American night, since it places All American with Black Lightning.  Even by CW standards, All American was low-rated, so it may benefit from some superhero help..

Tuesday:  The Flash is paired with the final 10-episode season of Arrow, and seemingly a chunk of the fall will revolve around a shared universe adventure.

Wednesday:  Riverdale serves as lead-in to NANCY DREW, which seems fitting since the new series looks like Veronica Mars after a dose of Riverdale.  It hails from the Gossip Girl team of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, along with Noga Landau.

Thursday:  The final season of Supernatural returns with Legacies, duplicating the night’s midseason line-up.

Friday:  It’s no vote of confidence in Charmed that it’s been farmed off to Fridays and coupled with the extremely low-rated Dynasty.

Sunday:  Supergirl is the runway for BATWOMAN, which was introduced as a sort of backdoor pilot within the network’s last superhero crossover event.  Like all CW/DC shows, it’s produced by the Greg Berlanti factory, and was created by Caroline Dries, a veteran of the Vampire Diaries franchise.

MIDSEASON:  The Riverdale spin-off KATY KEENE, and the returns of Legends of Tomorrow, The 100, In the Dark, and Roswell, New Mexico.

FORECAST:  It’s clear that the message here is “more of the same.”  The question will be whether the economics of airing low-rated series with strong streaming backstops will continue to make sense when the streaming checks are either coming from the network’s own parent companies or lack a guaranteed price.  .

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."