In Depth

CW Puts ‘Gossip Girl’ Episodes Back on Its Web Site

Experiment to Boost Broadcast Ratings Proved Inconclusive

Gossip Girl

When “Gossip Girl” went broadcast-only for its five final fresh episodes after returning from the production stoppage created by the writers strike, viewers were determined to get their “Girl” online, legally or not.

In an experimental effort to kick-start ratings, The CW yanked the last five episodes of “Girl” in May from online streaming via cwtv.com, forcing viewers to either watch or record them as they were broadcast or purchase them on iTunes.

Now, months later, the network said the experiment was inconclusive, reporting that the change in the ratings wasn’t substantial enough to restrict “Girl” to broadcast only.

A straight ratings comparison also would be short-sighted, as “Girl” moved from a Wednesday pre-strike time slot to Mondays after the strike.

But The CW saw that viewers were determined to watch “Girl” online regardless of whether it was available at the network site.

“When The CW experimented with not streaming ‘Gossip Girl’ at the end of last season, the passionate fans found other digital outlets and Web sites to watch their favorite show online,” said Paul McGuire, senior VP of communications for The CW.

“Ultimately, we’ve decided to begin streaming episodes of the show again on cwtv.com because we want The CW to be the primary destination for all things ‘Gossip Girl,’ from on-air to online,” he added.

Dawn Ostroff, The CW’s entertainment president, said illegal online access to “Gossip Girl” episodes increased 45% during that time.

This is nothing new to studios and networks. The Internet keeps finding a way to supply media to those who want to find it, from recent Internet appearances of David E. Kelley’s treatment of “Life on Mars” to the pilot episode of “Fringe,” which hadn’t even been sent out to television critics prior to it showing up online.

“Girl” likely will stay legally online for a while, as there’s no similar online-yanking experiments planned at this time, Mr. McGuire said.

As for the pulled episodes, Mr. McGuire said they should find their way to the cwtv.com site starting Friday. “Girl’s” second season debuts Sept. 1 at 8 p.m.