Just in time for the unveiling of its 2021-22 schedule next week, the CW has secured its largest affiliate group for the next season and beyond. The broadcast network and Nexstar Media Group (as well as its operating partners) have reached multi-year agreements to renew CW affiliations in 37 markets across the country (28 Nexstar- and 9 partner-owned television stations), which cover more than 31% of the U.S. audience, serving more than 38 million television households. The deal includes five top-10 market affiliates: WPIX-TV in New York City, KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, KDAF-TV in Dallas, KIAH-TV in Houston, and WDCW-TV in Washington, D.C.
This is the CW’s first affiliate agreement with Nexstar, which has had CW stations for awhile, since the company in 2019 acquired the previous top CW affiliate group, Tribune, including the flagship stations in New York and Los Angeles. That acquisition happened during Tribune’s most recent five-year affiliate agreement with the CW, which the new owner fulfilled. In addition to Nexstar, other major station groups whose CW deals are up this year are believed to include Sinclair and Media General.
The CW currently provides its affiliate stations with close to 1,000 hours of programming a year at a relatively inexpensive price point, which was appealing to stations, I hear. The network’s output went up since the 2019 renewals with Tribune and the other majors as the CW added a new night of original programming on Sunday and has been continually ramping up its original summer slate.
What likely helped seal the renewal was the recent “time slot swap” between the CW and its stations, which are all affiliates as the network does not have owned-and-operated station group behind it. The CW, which reclaimed Sunday night from its affiliates for network programming in 2018, will be expanding to Saturday next season. In exchange of giving the network two hours of primetime on Saturday and Sunday, the stations will be getting back the Monday through Friday 3 PM-4 PM afternoon hour to program to their own needs.
“As the nation’s largest CW affiliate group, Nexstar is very pleased to extend its longstanding relationship with the network,” said Tom Carter, Nexstar’s President, COO and CFO. “The CW’s line-up of prime-time entertainment shows, coupled with Nexstar’s highly-rated local news and other market-centric programming enables us to deliver great content to millions of viewers and exceptional value to our advertisers.”
The CW’s digital strategy also reportedly has been key in securing new affiliate agreements. An early adopter of multi-platform viewing, the value of CW’s growing digital operations on a local level has grown, especially with the new ASTC rules. The CW’s digital footprint is far more expansive compared to five years ago when the Netflix output deal only allowed for the most recent five episodes of the network’s shows to be streamed on its digital platforms. Since the CW suppliers Warner Bros. Studios and CBS Studios ended that deal in 2019, the network has had full in-season stacking rights. It has been a big draw for CW fans, with the affiliates able to capitalize on that with local ads they get on those AVOD episodes.
“We are pleased to extend our valued partnership, through a multi-year agreement, with our largest station group, Nexstar. The linear broadcast model remains the backbone of our business model and vitally important as it gives us the scale and local reach that distinguishes us in today’s marketplace as the original multiplatform network,” said Betty Ellen Berlamino, EVP, Distribution, The CW. “The successful launches of our new scripted series Walker, Superman & Lois and Kung Fu, added to our strong programming lineup that includes All American, The Flash, Riverdale, Nancy Drew and Batwoman, combined with the local news and exclusive content produced by Nexstar will continue to deliver high quality viewing for our audience and a first-class advertising platform for our advertisers.”