CW banks on word-of-mouth

'Gossip'-dependent network seeks rise in stature

If it’s do-or-die time for the CW, at least the net is going out with the year’s biggest buzz.

The nostalgia factor behind the CW’s new take on “90210” is fueling the most press of any new show this fall — even though most of the attention has been on which original cast members are returning and whether they’re fighting.

But the CW will take it. Coming off a year that offered up mixed results — critical acclaim and hefty media attention, but low ratings — the netlet could use a big hit. And “90210” at least is a well-known brand that should deliver strong sampling early in the season.

Beyond that, a lot of the netlet’s success hinges on whether returnees such as “Gossip Girl” can improve their Nielsen standings — and whether the CW will take much of a ratings hit without the MyNetworkTV-bound wrestling staple “WWE SmackDown.”

The CW boasts better weeklong flow without wrestling, but the WWE did help the netlet’s weeklong average on a night that otherwise might be tough to attract young eyeballs.

Meanwhile, the jury’s still out on whether the CW’s Sunday night strategy — leasing out a five-hour block of programming to Media Rights Capital — will have much of an impact.

“Looking toward the future, we are very focused on women 18-34,” CW Entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff says. “We know that that’s our sweet spot, and we know that that’s where we can make the most noise. We feel it’s a great opportunity for success.”

SPOTLIGHT: 90210

Brenda’s back. So’s Kelly. And Nat’s still slinging hash and offering up unsolicited advice at the Peach Pit.

But don’t call it a “90210” reunion. Despite all the press attention on Tori Spelling’s contractual spat (she’s out) or Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth’s relationship on set, “90210” will be mostly all about the new cast.

“It is a complete original invention,” says exec producer Jeff Judah. “There will be, though, somewhat of an homage to the original show.”

Like the original, the new “90210” will start off with a fish-out-of-water concept: A family (led by Rob Estes) moves from Kansas to Beverly Hills.

“It’s about how they handle this new world,” adds Judah, who’s crafting the series with Gabe Sachs. “We’re trying to just really tell truthful, emotional stories, but also keep it pretty funny, too.”

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