The CW Is Up For Sale – Who Will Own The Arrowverse Next?
In a surprising memo to the CW staff yesterday, CW chief executive officer Mark Pedowitz informed employees that The CW’s parent companies, Warner Media and Viacom CBS, are seeking a buyer for the popular entertainment channel. But popular doesn’t always mean profitable. Yet, it would seem that in recent years, the network should be making money, with shows like Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and Batwoman bringing in more viewers than ever before. So, what made the two big corporations put the CW up for sale? Well, despite Pedowitz telling employees that it is “too early to speculate,” we’re going to go ahead and speculate.
Netflix, Paramount+, HBOmax, and the Little Network that Couldn’t
Image via the CW
The CW used to be two different networks – the WB and UPN, two networks that were always on the verge of collapsing. To save their companies, CBS and Warner merged them into the CW, sharing the costs. So, they went from two entirely unprofitable networks to one mostly unprofitable network. It would take years for the CW to really make an impact. For a while, the only show drawing people in was Supernatural, which recently wrapped up the series after 15 seasons. Not bad for a show that was originally only planned for three seasons. The other show, from CBS’s side, that helped a bit was Riverdale. But, oddly, people weren’t going to CW to watch the show. Instead, they headed to Netflix.
CW and Netflix had a sharing deal for several years, but called it quits in 2019. Both Warner Media and Viacom CBS were building their own streaming services, HBO Max and Paramount+, respectively. But pulling the CW shows from Netflix wasn’t the best move, and probably one of the reasons the CW is up for sale. They ended up losing a good portion of their audience. And with their audiences almost exclusively American, there’s no international revenue propping CW up.
The CW is Up for Sale Because One Partner Isn’t Putting in as Much Effort as the Other
Image via the CW
As we said before, CBS and Warner own different properties on the CW. While you can watch all the Big Bang Theory reruns your heart desires on the channel, the real money comes from IPs, intellectual properties. In that area, Warner has The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Superman and Lois, Batwoman, and heavily streamed wrapped shows like Arrow and Supergirl. The CBS has Charmed and Dynasty. Other IPs, like Riverdale, neither of them own, so they split production costs.
But the moneymakers on the CW are all in Warner Media’s sandbox. At this point, the CW is almost just the WB again, hosting some of CBS’s shows. But even though their Arrowverse shows are doing well, Warner might not feel confident enough to buy out CBS’s portion. This could be one of the main reasons that the CW is up for sale. CBS can’t pull their own weight, but Waner doesn’t have the strength to carry them both. The network is a dead weight for the two companies. And the last thing Warner needs right now is dead weight. Might as well throw the network to the sharks…or maybe into Shark Week?
The Discovery Acquisition of Warner Media May Also be Why the CW is Up for Sale
Image via CW
Before Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, the Rupert Murdoch-owned studio trimmed a lot of fat. To make the deal more lucrative for Disney, Murdoch made a new company for the Fox properties Disney had no interest in. This included Fox Broadcasting Company, 20th Century Fox’s physical studio lot, Fox Television Stations, Fox News Group, and Fox Sports. Disney didn’t even want “Fox.” The first major decision they made was to remove the name Fox from their properties. Now it’s just 20th Century Pictures and Searchlight Pictures. Fox News and Fox Sports will keep their Canidae namesake.
However, the purging of Fox companies also shows why Warner would want to put the CW up for sale. Recently, Discovery began its acquisition of Warner Media. One thing the new parent company wouldn’t want is a grandchild company that can’t pay the rent even as its dysfunctional parents try to bail it out. When one company buys another, it’s usually not to own its failing and problematic portions. And the CW is perpetually on the brink of failure. But what does this mean for our favorite shows?
What Might Change Now that the CW is Up for Sale
Image via the CW
“So, what does this mean for us right now?” Pedowitz rhetorically asks in his memo, answering with:
“It means we must continue to do what we do best, make The CW as successful and vibrant as we have always done. We have a lot of work ahead of us – with more original programming than ever, this season’s expansion to Saturday night, our growing digital and streaming platforms – and we thrive when we come together and build The CW together.”
But, no doubt, things are going to change. The target audience for most of the CW shows isn’t interested in sitting down to watch a show at a designated time. It’s all streaming for the youngsters. The Arrowverse shows will go to HBOMax with the rest of DC and Warner Bros properties. Charmed and Dynasty will likely become Paramount+ originals, having no need for a cable network. And while the Wall Street Journal believes the local TV company Nexstar will buy the channel, that’s iffy too. In fact, the best option may not even be putting the CW up for sale but shuttering the network and dividing it up amongst the steaming platforms.
And don’t worry, the CW Batfamily series Gotham Knights will find some cave to dwell in. Nothing stops the Bat family.
Featured image via Warner Bros. Television
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.