The two networks will continue to set pricing for commercials independently of each other, but will now begin to share research and other broader efforts to understand audience behavior. While CW has its own research team, it is not as broad in its mandate as the one at CBS, where David Poltrack orchestrates deeper looks at viewership as well as new technologies and data resources that can supply new kinds of information about TV audience.
The alliance could certainly open the door for the two networks to offer broader packages for advertisers. CBS is the nation’s most-watched TV network, but its audience skews older than the CW’s, where a new spate of programs with science-fiction and super-hero themes tends to find more consumption among a younger base. A person familiar with the agreement cautioned against likening it to a relationship CBS had with UPN, where Ross supervised ad-sales efforts for both networks until the smaller one was shuttered in 2006. In that case, CBS owned UPN outright, and did not share it with another company, as it does with Time Warner.
The alliance will be in place for this year’s “upfront” negotiations, during which the nation’s TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad time for the coming season. The announcement comes as NBCUniversal has been promoting its efforts to create broader ad packages across its various broadcast, cable and digital holdings.