The CW's online audience--those watching streaming versions of its broadcast series like Arrow, The Originals and Beauty and the Beast--may have grown 60 percent in the last year, the network's statistics, presented at its annual upfront in New York, suggested.
And CW will take an opposite route to the normal TV-to-Web process, as its first online-only series, Backpackers, begins a 10-episode run on the broadcast network. The series was first produced by recently created digital studio CW Seed, which will add five more digital series this year, Mark Pedowitz, president of the network told advertisers at the event.
A post by Deadline.com from the event said that digital streaming of CW programming was up 60 percent year over year.
The digital strategy is likely not just a way to differentiate itself from other content producers. CW's audience is skewing older, with more viewers in the 18 to 49 category and more men watching than women. The network clearly wants to grab all of those eyeballs, all of the time.
It was also the first network to offer a fully integrated media broadcast-and-online buy, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and launched its streaming app, TV Now, in 2012, ahead of many other networks. Testing out new series online before committing to a broadcast version is cost-effective and could attract more new viewers.
Not everyone was as jazzed about CW's presentation, though. While noting that "the CBS/WB-owned network is more than happy to blaze its own path," Forbes contributor Merrill Barr wrote that it didn't make many risky moves in its fall broadcast lineup, because it doesn't have to. "For the most part, The CW's a network that solely exists to push shows into a syndication business model. If a producing studio, say Warner Brothers, has a series it can't find a home for on a standard network but knows could do well in a niche market, it will throw it to The CW to build an episode library that can then be sold off to broadcasters down the road."
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