CW worried show may be too popular on Net

Defying the conventional wisdom in TV land these days, the CW has decided to hype the upcoming return of “Gossip Girl’ by opting not to stream episodes of the show on the Web.

Most networks have been hyping Internet streaming as a key component of the marketing and monetization of series. Indeed, the recent WGA strike was waged in no small part because of nets’ desire to put content on the Net.

But CW execs seem to be worried that “Gossip Girl” may be too popular online. Skein is regularly among the most downloaded shows on iTunes and is off the chart in terms of Web buzz.

Despite all those signs of success, CW execs — as well as suits at CW parents CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. — have been frustrated that raw Nielsen ratings haven’t been higher. There’s also concern that the show’s long strike-induced hiatus, as well as its new timeslot, will put a dent in the show’s numbers. Net’s goal is to make the show a must-watch on the broadcast platform.

For now, the decision to stop streaming new segs of “Gossip” applies only to the five episodes slated to air beginning Monday.

“This is an experiment,” said Paul McGuire, exec VP of network communications for the C-Dub. “We need to grow the ratings for the show and we want to see if this helps move the needle.”

“Gossip” won’t be disappearing from the Net completely. Show will still be available for download on iTunes, but segs don’t usually post to the Apple site until about a week after their initial broadcast.

What’s more, while CW will stop legal streaming of “Gossip,” tech-savvy fans will still be able to watch via widely available BitTorrent copies of episodes distributed all over the Net.

CW is also beefing up “Gossip”-themed content on its website, including post-show chats with series co-creator Josh Schwartz and a watch-and-win contest. Past segs of the show are still available for streaming.

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