Upon its sale to Nexstar Media, some striking things about The CW’s profitability were revealed and it turns out the network never has been profitable. This crucial bit of information was found in the SEC filing by Nexstar during the acquisition and dares to defy a narrative of success crafted around programming that was successful for a time.
Their content fell off rather quickly, however. Arrow and The Flash would spawn the Arrowverse which carried the channel through an entire decade before they foisted programming such as Batwoman and Naomi on audiences. The prior success of mainstays One Tree Hill, Supernatural, and later Riverdale can’t be counted out either but the slide came inexorably fast.
In actuality, it was inevitable given the underlying financials which go all the way back to 2006 — when the network was formed out of a merger between The WB Network and UPN — says The Hollywood Reporter. From the beginning, The CW was not a moneymaker for either of its owners, Warner Bros. or CBS/Paramount, though it had avenues of income.
It made considerable coin from distribution deals with Netflix to stream its content, particularly the sizable Arrowverse slate of shows. Foreign distribution was a huge part of that but that’s been cut off at the knees by CBS and Warner’s desire to reel in programs they produce for their respective streamers, Paramount+ and HBO Max.
But we’re not talking about lucre that was enough to stem the tide. Based on Nexstar’s filing, at this time last year in the final financial quarter of 2021 going into 2022 when the sale was finalized, The CW had a revenue of “about $100 million,” THR reported. Their annual total was estimated as between $370 million and $405 million.
That’s not a bad range but CW embarrassingly lost more than either amount, spending $2 for every dollar raked in. Their annual estimated losses were between $300 million and $400 million. Nextar’s purchase was finalized in August and gives them a 75-percent share of the network and $54 million. Warner and CBS each retain 12.5 percent.
The future of DC programming looks terribly bleak under the new management. While they are contractually obligated to air what remains — season 3 of Superman & Lois, for example — there might not be room for it after a while according to executive VP and CFO Lee Ann Gliha in a Variety interview. The same goes for CBS offerings like Walker: Independence and The Winchesters.
“Over the course of the next year, we’re really working to develop our slate, which will then come online in the 2023-2024 broadcast season. We will have some carryover commitment for the CBS and the WBD programming in that year, but it’s minimal at that point,” Gliha said. Their broad swath of cancellations is telling in that regard.
Programming is gutted when it’s no longer viable to the balance sheet, and this year has already seen the end of Legends of Tomorrow, Legacies, and most of the shows mentioned above. The upcoming season of The Flash is expected to be the last and the long-running improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? ends after this season. Cost-cutting? Probably.