The CW yesterday unveiled to advertisers its most ambitious schedule yet, featuring 15 original scripted series, including high-profile transplant Supergirl. But ad buyers who want to book ads on the network for next fall, can currently do so for 2/3 of the country because the CW currently has no affiliate agreement for next season with its stations in 28% of the country that are owned by Tribune, including the top three markets — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
While the network’s owners, CBS and Warner Bros, had been hoping to have an affiliate agreement secured by the upfronts, I hear negotiations with Tribune are going well and there may be an announcement soon. The network certainly needs to have all markets secured by the time it starts making upfront deals with advertisers in a few weeks. What’s more, the CW just announced at its presentation yesterday that starting this fall, the CW app will be available to more than 80 million devices without authentication.
It was on the day of the CW upfront presentation in 2014 when Tribune Media CEO Peter Liguori made headlines with his pointed comments about being “not pleased” with the CW. Things have somewhat normalized since that low point in the relationship, but the affiliate renewal talks nevertheless have been difficult, for the most part going slowly, even stalling at times, which has caused a lot of frustration.
While Tribune had a stake in the CW predecessor the WB, the company has no ownership in the CW, thus making the companies’ relationship a standard affiliate agreement where financial terms need to be reached.
Despite an overall ratings slip in the fall — due to the performance of shows like freshman Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, whose ratings were soft, and veteran The Vampire Diaries, whose season-to-season decline were been bigger than expected — the CW has done OK overall, launching another solid performer in January with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and improving Friday with the move of TVD there. The network is in a much stronger position with affiliates than it was a couple of years ago, with a broader, older, balanced female-male audience and ratings hits like The Flash and Arrow as well as critically-praised and award-winning shows like Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
“The CW had its best season ever,” the network’s head of sales Rob Tuck said at the top of yesterday’s upfront presentation.
Tribune was one of several station owners whose affiliate deals with the CW were up this year. The others, including Sinclair and Media General, renewed their agreements months ago, leaving Tribune as the only holdout.
While there are alternative scenarios both sides had been exploring should a new deal is not reached, observers had agreed that re-upping would be good for both companies.
Complicating matters was Tribune’s March announcement that it had taken a big write-down on its TV operations and had hired two financial advisers to explore “strategic and financial alternatives” including asset sales.