Navigating the CW’s influence in the streaming landscape

20 July, 2023

Image: The Flash, The CW

Established in 2006 as a joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corporation, The CW has consistently pushed the boundaries of traditional broadcasting norms. Central to its innovative strategy has been licensing its content to a range of streaming platforms. This approach has not only amplified the network's visibility, but has also extended its reach to a broader, often younger, and geographically diverse audience.

In recent times, The CW has taken a proactive stance towards content licensing. By capitalizing on the expansive power of various platforms, the network has managed to significantly increase its audience exposure and nurture expansive fan bases for its shows. This strategy may seem paradoxical at first glance, but it has led to a phenomenal expansion of the network's audience reach and spawned new sources of revenue.


An illustration of this success is the widespread popularity of several CW TV series on Netflix's catalog. Among these are The Flash, the network's flagship show, which generated a demand 70.8 times greater than the average US show following the launch of a new season in this year's first quarter. The enduring appeal of Supernatural, a show from 2005, and the teen drama Riverdale, whose final season was recently broadcast, also stand out.

Despite not renewing their agreement in 2019, the partnership between The CW and Netflix has proved mutually beneficial. In addition to the aforementioned series, several other top 10 high-demand CW shows, like SupergirlThe 100, and All American, are also licensed to Netflix. Consequently, CW shows accounted for 6.0% of the total demand for Netflix's TV catalog in 2023's second quarter, the largest share among all major SVOD platforms.

The decision to not renew the agreement was driven by plans from CW's owners, WBD and ViacomCBS, to designate Max as the primary streaming platform for CW shows. Currently, the network contributes to 4.1% of the total demand for Max’s TV catalog, featuring popular CW shows like Superman & LoisThe Vampire Diaries, and Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

The chart below reveals the potential role that CW shows could play in Max's future strategy. CW's content typically appeals more to younger, predominantly female audiences, a demographic less catered to by HBO/HBO Max originals that constitute a large part of Max's catalog. In addition to titles that skew young and female, CW is also home to several high-demand shows positioned centrally on the chart. These programs (including the channels most in-demand The Flash) tend to attract a balanced mix of ages and genders.


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