The CW Expands Primetime Schedule To Saturday, Returns Weekday Afternoon Block To Affiliates

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The CW Network is becoming a full seven-day-a-week broadcast network. The net, co-owned by WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS, is expanding its primetime schedule to include Saturday next season.

This will mark the first time even that the CW has programmed seven nights a week over its entire 27-year history, going back predecessors the WB and UPN. Starting with the 2021-22 season, CW will air 14 hours of primetime programming a week (8 PM – 10 PM Monday-Sunday), just one fewer than Fox.

However Fox, like the other Big 4 broadcast networks, does not run any original entertainment programming on Saturdays, a one-time top night of broadcast viewing that has largely been abandoned in the past two decades to become home of sports, repeats and newsmagazines.

Meanwhile, the CW does plan to have originals on Saturday, starting with its first Saturday of primetime programming on October 2, 2021, night one of iHeartRadio Music Festival (8:00-10:00 PM). Night two of the festival, a longtime fall staple on the CW, will air the following night, Sunday, October 3 (8:00-10:00 PM).

The CW is expected to announce its fall Saturday lineup when the network unveils its fall 2021 schedule the week after next. Because the current HUT levels on Saturday night cannot sustain high-end scripted programming on Saturday, the CW’s offerings will likely include non-scripted fare and possibly acquisitions.

This is the latest step in the CW’s expansion under Chairman and CEO Mark Pedowitz who also successfully led the network’s effort to reclaim Sundays in 2018.

Those moves need approval by the network’s key affiliate groups in order for the CW to secure clearances across the country. Leading the CW’s negotiations with the affiliates were Betty Ellen Berlamino, the CW’s EVP, Network Distribution, and Ann Miyagi, SVP and General Counsel. That includes talks with the CW’s top stations groups, including Nexstar and Sinclair, whose affiliate agreements are up this year and are currently being renegotiated.

As the CW got the affiliates’ blessing to take Saturday primetime from them, the network will return to the stations the Monday through Friday 3 PM-4 PM afternoon to program to their own needs.

The network controlling the afternoon hour is vestige of old times. The block originated as Kids’ WB! on the WB. It was discontinued in 2005 as afternoon viewership of kids programming shifted to cable, but the WB kept the hour, which was then inherited by the CW when it replaced the WB and UPN in 2006.

The CW has been running syndicated talk shows in the time period, most recently The Steve Wilkos Show. Meanwhile, CW affiliate stations have been carrying off-network and local programming in primetime on Saturday.

“As The CW expands and thrives, so do our affiliate partners, and everyone sees the tremendous value and the clear excitement behind the opportunity to brand and identify as a seven night network on both a national and local level,” said  Berlamino. “The addition of more original programming to our Saturday primetime line-up coupled with our stations ability to now program the Monday through Friday daytime block is a win-win for all parties.”

The CW will use the new Saturday primetime block to sell more original programming to advertisers both on linear TV and the CW’s digital platforms where it will be available with an ad load.

“Becoming a seven-night-a-week network has been a long-standing goal for everyone here at The CW, and in an extremely tight broadcast environment, the ability to expand our primetime by two more hours each week is a dynamic shift that will be gladly welcomed by our clients and the agencies,” said Rob Tuck, EVP, National Sales, The CW. “Following the recent industry trend which has seen considerable contraction on a linear basis, The CW will buck that trend this season by adding a new night of original programming, creating new opportunities for us going forward.”

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