EXCLUSIVE: When the first output deal between Netflix and the CW parents CBS and Warner Bros was announced in 2011, it was hailed as groundbreaking and, with its $1 billion windfall, a lifeline that might have helped save the then money-losing upstart network. The pact, re-upped by both sides in 2016 with some modifications, was up again this spring, and I hear it is not being renewed.
I hear the three new CW series — Batwoman, Nancy Drew and Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene — are being shopped for streaming deals individually by their respective studios. Batwoman, part of the DC Arrowverse on the CW, is solely owned by Warner Bros TV and Nancy Drew by CBS TV Studios. Katy Keene is produced and distributed by WBTV, with financial participation of CBS Studios under the companies’ joint-venture agreement to co-produce CW series not based on owned IP.
The deal ending doesn’t mean new CW series won’t end up on Netflix, where CW shows traditionally have been among the strongest performers. The SVOD service just won’t get them automatically via an output deal; instead, it will have to bid for each show in a far more competitive environment than the streaming marketplace in 2016.
Past seasons of CW series that premiered through the current 2018-19 season, such as The Flash and Riverdale, will continue to stream on Netflix during the broadcast life of the series and for a number of years beyond that.
I hear WBTV’s Batwoman is earmarked for the upcoming WarnerMedia streaming service. Its chief creative officer Kevin Reilly has been open about bringing new WBTV-produced CW shows to the service once the Netflix deal is up, saying in February that “we’re very interested in putting that on our platform.”
Katy Keene and Nancy Drew are both being shopped, with Netflix said to be among the contenders. Netflix would be a natural destination for WBTV/CBS Studios’ Katy Keene which, while different tonally, belongs to the same Archie Comics universe as Riverdale, part of the Netflix output deal, and Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, a Netflix original series. Both Riverdale and Sabrina are hugely popular on Netflix
Because of its young adult skew, CBS Studios’ Nancy Drew would not be a natural fit for sibling streaming platform CBS All Access, whose content is more adult-oriented. (For that reason, CBS Studios’ kids animated Star Trek series did not go to CBS All Access, home to the new Star Trek franchise, but to Nickelodeon.)
Netflix’s former CW deal, as well as the ones currently shopped for the three new series, are “library” pacts for completed seasons of a show. (According to the most recent agreement, a season becomes available on Netflix eight days after the finale airs on the CW.) In-season, the CW series run on the network’s digital platforms.
The relationship has been beneficial to both sides — Riverdale‘s ratings spike at the start of Season 2 on the CW was attributed to the exposure of the first season on Netflix.
The end of the CW deal is certainly a blow to Netflix but not unexpected. Disney, which had inked a rich movie output deal with Netflix in 2016 (just a few months before CBS and Warner Bros renewed their output deal for the CW content) also ended their pact, redirecting the studio’s features to their own upcoming streaming service Disney+.
It is part of an ongoing trend of content providers pulling their content from Netflix to put it on their own platforms; Netflix also is facing the likely departures of two of its biggest viewership generators, The Office and Friends, whose owners, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros, respectively, want them for their upcoming streaming services. Library programming accounts for about two-thirds of Netflix viewing.
To counter that, Netflix has been spending aggressively on original content to build its own library. The Internet network is expected to shell out an estimated $15 billion on originals this year, going up to $17.5 billion next year.