A later start to the fall season than usual could help reverse the CW’s primetime ratings woes, the network’s president, Mark Pedowitz, told the TV Critics Assn. press tour Monday.
After seeing traction for its series evaporate in past seasons when launching prior to the traditional premiere week in late September, Pedowitz believes getting away from the competition could provide a lift.
“The theory here was get away from the clutter,” said Pedowitz.
By launching all of its series in early October, the CW will look to drive momentum it hopes to have from new series “Oh Sit!” and “The Next,” which premiere in August and run through September. In addition, the late starts will counter the perennial criticism that CW’s sked is too littered with repeats beginning in the fourth quarter of the year.
Pedowitz returned again and again to the notion that the CW shouldn’t be judged strictly by its on-air ratings given the “astronomical” levels of viewing across its digital windows, including Netflix, Hulu and CWTV.com, in addition to social media. However, he also acknowledged that monetizing off-air viewing is a challenge given how slow Nielsen has been to track that viewing and have advertisers recognize the value of that data.
“Us, advertisers and affilaites are all looking for an accurate measurement of every person who is watching the shows,” said Pedowitz.
He disclosed after the press conference that he is exploring research alternatives to Nielsen that will help reflect the reality of CW’s widely dispersed audience across platforms and windows, working internally on an initiative that could be revealed to advertisers in the midseason.
Pedowitz reiterated his interest in getting comedies on the CW’s all-drama sked, indicating that two unspecified projects proved promising out of a slate of eight half-hour scripts the CW considered last season. But while he will look to his development team to continue comedy development efforts, he made clear he won’t be comfortable getting them on air until CW stabilizes its schedule.
He also floated the possibility that the CW would use its recently announced digital production outfit, CWD, as a vehicle for testing comedy concepts that could eventually make it on air. The network announced CWD and its slate of original short-form productions at the upfront presentation in May.
Asked whether the influx of action-oriented hours to CW’s sked indicated an interest in drawing males, Pedowitz acknowledged that the network was looking for a more balanced gender split in the 18-34 demo, which saw an exodus of men when longtime series “Smallville” ended its run.
“We are in need of some men coming to our network,” he conceded. “The loss of ‘Smallville had an impact on us.”
Pedowitz also discussed the failure of “Ringer,” the Sarah Michelle Gellar drama that didn’t live to see a second season after a weakly rated 2011-12 season. He suggested that a 22-episode order may have been too much for a serialized hour, a strategy that informed his decision to schedule “The Carrie Diaries” and “Cult” for the midseason where they can run uninterrupted by repeats.
As for Gellar, who scored a breakthrough for the WB, one of the network’s that was the predecessor for CW, with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” he indicated they have already talked about her returning in the future either as an actor or producer of a series in the future.
CW also announced an Oct. 7 airdate for “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” the Joss Whedon comedy/musical that will be edited to an hourlong format. Pedowitz, who indicated he had tried to get the project for Disney’s original digital programming efforts back when he ran ABC Studios, said he’d also look to get any follow-up to “Horrible” on CW should Whedon produce one.
Talking with reporters after the press conference, Pedowitz also said he is interested in getting something on CW’s sked like “7th Heaven,” the family drama that ran for over a decade on the WB. “There is a version of a family show that we can could do that would speak to 18-34,” he said.