For The CW, the math has gone “1.3 + 1.3 = 1.3.”
That’s the season-to-date 18-to-49 rating average of parents UPN and The WB, which combined to produce a network finishing its first year with the exact same audience in the demographic most favored by advertisers.
Despite having the best programming from both networks and a handful of new shows, The CW has struggled to establish an original identity or gain traction that eclipses either of its forefathers. Among the network’s preferred demographic, adults 18 to 34, the math is slightly better, with 1.4 and 1.4 combining to make 1.5.
Though other factors have come into play in The CW’s first season—the network was rapidly launched and there was some viewer confusion over finding the channel—most insiders expected The CW to perform better.
That said, the cautionary tale of MyNetworkTV proved that even a 1.3 rating isn’t to be taken for granted when launching a new broadcast brand. MyNetworkTV, which is meeting one-on-one with advertisers rather than having a presentation this year, managed a disappointing 0.3.
Bright spots on The CW’s schedule include “America’s Next Top Model,” which had some of its best ratings ever this season, “Friday Night Smackdown” and “Smallville.”
Unfortunately, talent contract negotiations prevented another season of “Gilmore Girls,” which continued to be moderately popular on the network.
At The CW’s unveiling of its fall schedule, all eyes will likely go to Monday to see whether the network’s comedy block will remain in place in what has become a highly competitive night. Expect heavy emphasis on the 18-to-34 demographic and the network’s innovative Content Wraps, which may help offset DVR ad skipping. The network is also boosting its Web site, aiming to become a more MySpace-style hub for social networking fans.
Among its pilots, there’s buzz on the teen sitcom “Aliens in America” from NBC Universal and the New York City high society kids in the drama “Gossip Girl,” from Warner Bros. and Alloy.
John Rash, senior VP and director of media negotiations at Campbell Mithun, has been impressed with The CW’s launch. “The CW made great strides in blending and branding a new network,” he said. “In year two they need to match the new network with new shows and new viewers that are generationally appropriate.”
THE CW SNAPSHOT
When: Thursday, May 17, 11 a.m. (ET)
Where: The Theater at Madison Square Garden
Key executives: Dawn Ostroff, Entertainment President; Bill Morningstar, Executive VP of Ad Sales
Adults 18-49 season to date: 1.3
Total viewers: 3.2 million
2006-07 breakouts: “Pussycat Dolls: The Search for the Next Doll”
Biggest holes: Tuesdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 8 p.m.
Source: Nielsen Media Research ratings data for Sept. 18, 2006, to May 5, 2007, compared with Sept. 19, 2005, to May 7, 2006