The CW’s annual advertiser-packed fest always shines a light on superheroes, but this year, the young-skewing network brought more broad programming than ever before.
Yes, the net has one new series in the superhero genre with midseason drama “Black Lightning,” but the 2017-2018 slate is wide-ranging from a military program to a “Dynasty” reboot — “without the shoulder pads,” quipped CW president Mark Pedowitz from the stage at the New York City Center.
Still, the superhero schtick set off the upfront with CW’s executive vice president of national sales, Rob Tuck, walking out in a green cape with a dollar-sign symbol printed on the back, deeming himself as “Sales-Man.” On a big screen overhead, super-heroines Melissa Benoist of “Supergirl” and Caity Lotz of “Legends of Tomorrow” acted as if they were none too impressed, but the skit played well in the room.
Here are 10 things we learned from the CW’s upfront:
1. The network’s next four-way crossover will be held in November 2017. Pedowitz called the mega-crossover the “tentpole event” every fourth quarter, while plugging the net for having “the best superhero shows in the world.” The network’s newest addition to the crop, “Black Lightning,” premieres midseason and garnered loud applause for its first trailer — but don’t expect a five-way crossover; Pedowitz says “Lightning” will not be part of the “Arrow” universe.
2. The CW attracts young viewers — really young. It’s no secret that CW has the youngest audience across all broadcast nets, but the room still gasped when Pedowitz put up a chart that displayed current demo numbers. CW’s average audience of linear viewers is 45; VOD viewers average 36 years old; and digital viewers have a medium age of just 26. In simpler terms, these are social-savvy, in-the-know TV watchers whom advertisers want to target.
3. The CW has managed to make a sexy military drama. “Valor,” which landed Monday night’s post “Supergirl” slot, revolves around a military operation gone terribly wrong — and the trailer shown at the Upfront sets up a pill-popping storyline, not to mention a very steamy romance.
4. Following its big sister’s network’s presentation, CBS, which got heat yesterday for its lack of women and men of color in lead roles on the 2017-2018 schedule, the CW put its mission of diversity and inclusion in the spotlight with “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez, who stole the show with a heartwarming speech about television’s power to unite audiences. “Let’s put the presentation … and let’s open our hearts,” Rodriguez said. “We can learn a lot about who we are through art, and I believe that’s where the healing starts.”
5. Lucy Hale is the CW’s new secret weapon. The “Pretty Little Liars” star’s new series, “Life Sentence,” will have a midseason debut, and Pedowitz praised her social media following in introducing her to the crowd. Hale took the stage solo, saying “I have never been more proud of anything in my life.”
6. Or maybe, “Supernatural” is the CW’s secret weapon? Heading into its 13th season, Pedowitz still made time for the long-running drama at the Manhattan event, making a point to showcase the “indestructible” series, as he called it. Stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki walked out on stage with the perfect greeting: “Yep, still here.” And coming up next season? An animated Scooby-Doo crossover episode. Seriously.
7. Speaking of animation, Pedowitz stressed the importance of the genre, along with gaming and live-action comedy on the network’s streaming platform, CW Seed. Soon available on CW Seed will be the full series of “Everwood,” one of CW’s super-producer Greg Berlanti’s first shows, along with the original “Dynasty” to prep millennial viewers for the modernized, revamped version of the show that’ll premiere this fall.
8. “Dynasty” is back. An extended clip for the revival of the classic primetime soap proved that catfights, wealth and glitz still hold up in 2017. Hailing from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the creators of “Gossip Girl” and “The O.C.,” the fall series appears to be over-the-top escapist fun with a tagline of “the 1% of the 1%.” The CW is giving the series a big push: the annual snacks at the theater this year were “Dynasty” themed champagne gummy bears and chocolate caviar.
9. Puppies always win over the crowd — even when they’re media buyers, exhausted after a long week of upfront presentations. Pedowitz spoke about CW Good, the network’s platform that promotes charitable causes, which has teamed up with the non-profit Guide Dogs of America to bring professionally trained guide dogs free of charge to blind and visually impaired individuals. To promote the initiative, a live puppy-cam was beamed onto the big screen in the theater, immediately eliciting many “awwwwwws” from the audience.
10. Muse’s new song “Dig Down” will be featured this summer on the CW, as part of the network’s on-air and digital marketing campaign. The upfront marked the first-ever live performance for the single.