Entertainment Industry

Category: The CW

CW switches to next-day streams for episodes of prime-time series

Joseph Morgan in a scene from the CW hit
After studying the viewing behavior of its young audience, the CW television network has switched strategies and is no longer delaying the online release of such popular shows as "Gossip Girl" and "The Vampire Diaries."

CW -- a joint venture of CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. -- said Thursday that it would begin making episodes of its prime-time series available several hours after their initial television broadcast. The move is significant because it illustrates how television companies are moving quickly to adapt to rapid changes in technology in an effort to protect important revenue streams.

"Consumers have been telling us that they want the ability to watch their shows whenever and where ever they are," said Rick Haskins, CW executive vice president of marketing and digital programs. "If we don't listen to them, we will be missing an opportunity."

In recent years the CW has made dramatic changes in its online strategy as the network has figured out how to better monetize digital views of its programs.

Early on, the network hesitated to put its shows on the Web at all. But since September 2010 the CW has been delaying the online release of its episodes until three days after airing.

The three-day blackout was designed to boost the TV ratings, and thus protect the important TV advertising revenue. Advertisers pay premiums to reach viewers who watch shows on TV or within three days of their original airing, if the program has been digitally recorded.

CW executives were betting that viewers would be so eager to watch fresh episodes of their most popular shows, including "The Vampire Diaries," "One Tree Hill," and "90210," that they would watch them on TV rather than wait to see them on their laptops.

Viewers were eager to see the latest episode, all right. Research by the Warner Bros. anti-piracy group discovered that nearly a third of online viewers of CW's most popular shows were so motivated that they watched them on a pirate website.

"And 50% of that consumption was done during the first three days after the television run," Haskins said. "That's a lot of money out of our pockets."

By releasing its shows just a few hours after their TV broadcast (at 3 a.m. Pacific time), the CW hopes to reach viewers who otherwise would have pirated them. New technologies also allow the CW to measure the number of online viewers and determine whether they watch the commercials, providing another source of reliable audience data to share with advertisers.

The CW also has been at the forefront of advocating heavier "commercial loads," so the online streams contain as many ads as would be seen in a TV broadcast.

That is a departure from conventional wisdom among most online video distributors. Many believed that online viewers would lack the patience to sit through too many commercials. Sites such as Hulu offer episodes with about half the number of ads that would run on TV.

"We have found that viewers were indeed willing to watch a full commercial load," Haskins said.

CW also announced Thursday that it was introducing its first mobile application for iPad, iPhone and Android platforms. The app enables full-episode streaming of the network's prime-time series and provides a feature for fans to alert their friends on Facebook and Twitter that they are watching a particular episode.

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-- Meg James

Photo: Joseph Morgan in a scene from the CW hit "The Vampire Diaries." Credit:  Quantrell Colbert /  CW

Fox and CW sing and bite for ad dollars

NIKITA

With hot shows including "Glee" and "The Vampire Diaries," and hopes for a slightly stronger economy, Fox Broadcasting and the CW were able to get advertisers to pay more for commercials on their networks for the 2010-11 television season.

Both Fox and CW say they are wrapping up their so-called upfront sales, which is when the TV networks sell the bulk of their ad time for the new season. Fox is expected to take in about $1.9 billion from advertisers, while the smaller CW sold about $380 million in commercial time.

Fox fetched rate increases of 9% over last year's upfront prices, while the CW was able to hike its rates about 7.5%. 

The other major broadcasters -- CBS, ABC and NBC -- continued to haggle with advertisers Friday over prices as buyers refused to pay as much as the networks had initially hoped. Fox appears to have established the ceiling for price increases, making it difficult for the other networks to raise their rates more than the 9% that Fox pulled in for most of its prime-time commercials.

The CW, a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment, said it did particularly well among automakers this season.

"As the youngest-skewing network with a full schedule of original programming for the first time, we've seen tremendous year-to-year growth in all key [advertising] categories, including health and beauty, retail, wireless [phone carriers] and autos, both domestic and foreign," Rob Tuck, the CW's executive vice president for national sales, said in a statement. The CW's hot new show that advertisers are lining up for is "Nikita," the latest remake of "La Femme Nikita." Think "Alias" with even more action.

The CW's big coup was to get advertisers to pay TV ad rates for the commercials that run within episodes that are streamed online. "The vast majority of our clients have bought both on-air time and the full episode streaming online," Tuck said in an interview.

"The business has recognized the changes in viewers' behavior," he said. "Our younger viewers don't see a difference in watching a show on the television screen or watching it on their computer screen. And during this upfront market, the advertisers agreed that there wasn't really a difference either."

Typically, networks sell about 80% of their commercial inventory before the TV season starts. The rest is held back for what is known in the industry as the scatter market. Ads are sold during the upfront market with a ratings guarantee, and if a network does not deliver the audience promised, advertisers get extra commercials known as "make-goods" to make up for the ratings shortfall.

-- Meg James

Photo: The CW's new show "Nikita." Credit: The CW.

CBS withstands tougher competition; CW gets `Unexpected' boost

CBS withstood new challenges to its Monday night dominance, taking the night in viewers and the 18-49 demographic.

LUX The network's sitcom hits "How I Met Your Mother," "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory" all won their time periods in viewers. The only weak link for the network was "Accidentally on Purpose" (it's 30 minutes, so it must be a sitcom, right?), which could not hold on to the first place lead-in that "How I Met Your Mother" provided. Overall, CBS averaged 12.9 million viewers and a 4.2 rating in adults 18-49. Each rating in that category equals 1.3 million people.

The CW finally got some good news as its well-reviewed drama, "Life Unexpected," averaged almost 2.75 million viewers, which is the network's best number in the Monday 9-10 p.m. time period in a year. More important, the numbers went up in the second half-hour, which is a good sign. Its 1.2 rating in adults 18-49 is on par with what "Gossip Girl" has been averaging, and it didn't need a threesome to do it! 

ABC had a solid night with "The Bachelor" and "Castle." The network was up in viewers and adults 18-49 compared with the same night a year ago. ABC finished third in viewers with 10.2 million and second in 18-49, with a 3.5 rating.

Fox's two-hour "24" averaged 11 million viewers and a 3.4 in adults 18-49.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: The CW's "Life Unexpected." Credit: Michael Courtney

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