As of this Sunday, Nov. 23, the CW will no longer air programs from independent studio Media Rights Capital, wrote CW Chief Operating Officer John D. Maatta. Shows such as "Easy Money," "In Harm's Way" and others "are simply not working," he wrote, adding that ratings for the programs "have been below expectations."
The move raises new questions about the CW's ability to maintain itself. Faced with low ratings last year, the CW, which is co-owned by Time Warner and CBS Corp., agreed to let somebody else have its Sunday-night air in what its executives said was an attempt to focus on producing shows aimed at young women during the rest of the week. Freed of the burden of having to fill another few hours each Sunday, the CW could have a "laser-like focus" on wooing its female audience, Mr. Maatta said in an interview with Ad Age in September.
Touble with new series
While CW mainstays "Gossip Girl" and "One Tree Hill" got off to good starts, the network still has challenges. "CW continues to have trouble developing new series. '90210' is doing OK, but 'Privileged' and 'Stylista' are weak. On the returning series front, 'Gossip Girl' and 'Supernatural' are up from a year ago. The network's other returning shows are down," wrote Steve Sternberg, exec VP-audience analysis at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna, in a recent research note.
In the affiliate letter, Mr. Maata said that "we have improved our 18-49 demos by 78% Monday and 8% Monday-Thursday."
The MRC programs failed to dazzle from the start. At the network's upfront presentation in May, the shows reminded observers of the sort of syndicated fare that filled the hours of independent stations in the 1990s -- programs such as the Pam Anderson vehicle "VIP" or even less memorable fare, such as "Beastmaster," an action-adventure vehicle produced by Tribune Co., one of the CW's biggest affiliates.
Ironically, it was Tribune that was said to be instrumental in connecting CW with MRC, according to people familiar with the situation. As operator of 13 CW affiliates, Tribune had grown concerned with the CW's performance in the recent past, with executives even going so far to say on a recent conference call that "we believe that we can put on better programming with other people's money and a more profitable business model" should CW's hopes dim. The performance of the MRC programs might cause some to question that tactic.
CW and MRC had a one-year deal, according to a person familiar with the situation, and the network had the right to take the airtime back. In place of the MRC programs, the CW will run "Everybody Hates Chris" and "The Game" in the 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. slots; reruns of "The Drew Carey Show" in the 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. slot; reruns of CBS sci-fi cult favorite "Jericho" between 7 p.m and 8 p.m.; and a movie during the rest of the evening. The new schedule goes into effect Nov. 30.