Mark Pedowitz has been named chairman and CEO of the CW Network. The veteran television exec’s new deal will keep him ensconsed at the ViacomCBS-WarnerMedia joint venture, where he has served as president for nearly a decade.
Pedowitz last renewed his deal with the CW two years ago this month.
The extension and elevation solidify the youth-skewing broadcaster’s leadership at a time of transition for its corporate parents. Warner Bros., which holds 50% of the CW, was acquired last year along with the rest of the erstwhile TimeWarner companies (since rechristened WarnerMerdia) by AT&T. CBS, which owns the other half, was last month re-acquired by former sibling Viacom.
Both companies are in the process of repositioning themselves for a new era of digital-media consumption. When revealing its new direct-to-consumer product HBO Max last year, AT&T touted the fact that all Warner Bros.-produced CW shows would — eventually — be available on the service.
“The vision is the same as it was in 2011-12,” Pedowitz told Variety. “Look at where our weaknesses are and turn them into strengths. Realize the audience we have, we know where to find them.”
Under Pedowitz, the CW shifted from a linear audience that skewed exceptionally young and female to one more balanced in gender and age. Warner Bros.-produced superhero action series such as “Arrow” and “The Flash” brought the network male viewers and new ratings highs. CBS-produced comedic dramas “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” drew widespread critical acclaim and awards recognition. More recently, the network restaked its claim to young women with the dark soap opera “Riverdale.” This week, the CW renewed 13 of its current scripted series and gave an additional script order to “Riverdale” spinoff “Katy Keene” ahead of its premiere.
Pedowitz was also a driving forces behind the longevity of the only show still on the network that debuted before his arrival, “Supernatural,” which ends its 15th and final season this year.
The CW has, since Pedowitz came aboard, doubled its volume of scripted series, added an additional night of original programming on Sundays, and established a slate of unscripted series and scripted acquisitions in the summer months. Pedowitz also launched two digital extensions of the CW brand — the CW app, a free, ad-supported streaming home for in-season network shows; and CW Seed, a content incubator and home for short-form live-action and animated programming.
Streaming ad impressions for the company have grown significantly in recent years — to the point, according to Pedowitz, that the CW’s apps now generate a significant chunk of its revenue.
“We believe in the foundation of the broadcast side” of the business, Pedowitz said. “But our AVOD strategy is what differentiates us.”
The network has also in recent years far outpaced its broadcast competitors in representation. This season, according to the CW, more than 50% of its series regulars are people of color and more than 50% are women — while more than two thirds of its writers, directors, and exec producers are women and/or people of color.
“This goes back to 2011 and me walking in and talking to the team and saying other voices needed to be heard,” Pedowitz said. “It was a very hands-on approach to casting and development and current to make sure that there was behind- and in-front-of-the-camera representation, and in our own hiring.”
But with the recent corporate changes and consumer shifts toward subscription video, the economics that undergirded the CW have changed. A landmark output deal between the network’s owners and Netflix in 2011 essentially turned the network into a first-run home for shows that would live on Netflix after their seasons ended, and funneled billions of dollars in revenue to CBS and TimeWarner. That deal was last renewed in 2016. But amid AT&T’s acquisition of TimeWarner and desire to build its own Netflix competitor in HBO Max, as well as CBS’ evolving digital strategy anchored by mid-tier service CBS All Access, it was allowed to expire lat year. Both parents are now focused on exploiting CW series on their own platforms.
“The owners, CBS and WarnerMedia, both feel that in the ecosystem we provide a great platform for their programming, and that has worked beyond well in their minds,” Pedowitz said. “That strategy is where we’re headed — we’re going to keep doing what we do well, which is to stay brilliant in broadcast and continue to be the pioneer and premiere AVOD service across digital and social.”
Prior to joining the CW in 2011, Pedowitz ran ABC Studios from 2004 to 2009. He came to ABC in 1991, joining as senior VP, business affairs and contracts. He previously held roles at MGM/UA Television Production Group, the Landsburg Company and Reeves Entertainment.