TV Upfront

The CW Closes Out a Superheroic Upfront

Cape and Cowl Properties Help Broadcast's Youngest Network Soar

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Melissa Benoist stars as the title character in the CW's 'Supergirl.'
Melissa Benoist stars as the title character in the CW's 'Supergirl.' Credit: Cliff Lipson

A year to the day after the CW closed out the last of its 2015-16 upfront business, the dewy-eyed, apple-cheeked broadcast network has slammed the lid on the upcoming season's advance commitments.

According to sources familiar with the workings of the CW's upfront wheelings and dealings, the No. 5 broadcast net has set an in-house record in layaway arrangements, with overall volume said to have topped the $500 million mark. Depending on how you do the math (and what baseline you're working against), that total dollar estimate is anywhere between 12% and 14% higher than last year's haul.

While the year-over-year volume hikes were familiar -- last June's dollar amount was up between 12% and 15% when compared with the 2014-15 bazaar -- this year's pricing was far more robust. Whereas CPM increases topped out at 4% a year ago, this time around the CW commanded low double-digit gains in pricing.

As is the case with half-sibling CBS, which also has put a bow on its upfront negotiations, the CW appeals to buyers who prefer history over mystery. As befits a primetime lineup that offers a sort of rock-ribbed stability, only two showroom-new series ("No Tomorrow," "Frequency") will join the CW roster this fall, while transfer student "Supergirl" has a full 20-episode track record as a former CBS property.

Also working in the CW's favor is its appeal to a relatively youthful audience. With a median age of 45 years, the network is the only broadcast property that delivers a greater percentage of viewers in the 18-to-49 crowd than those who have aged out of the advertiser-coveted demo. Moreover, those who consume shows like "The Flash" and "Arrow" via the CW's online platforms are even more crisp and keen and fresh-off-the-shelf, as the median age of the net's nonlinear audience is 26 years.

The CW ended the 2015-16 season as the No. 5 broadcast network among the 18-to-49 set, edging the Spanish-language outlet Univision, while pulling to within a single ratings point behind ABC (1.8).

In a nod to the usual caveats about upfront numbers, it's always worth noting that the dollar amounts that are bandied about in June are not exactly in thrall to Sarbanes-Oxley. That said, the CW figures concur with what media buyers are reporting from their end of the table.

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