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The CW Braces for Change as Nexstar Plans to Acquire 75% Stake

Nexstar is purchasing a majority stake in the netlet from Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global.
  • KJ Apa and Lili Reinhart in Riverdale (Photo: The CW)
    KJ Apa and Lili Reinhart in Riverdale (Photo: The CW)

    Major changes are coming to The CW.

    On Monday, Nexstar announced it will acquire a 75% majority stake in The CW as part of a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global. The news comes six months after Warner and Paramount, which have co-owned The CW since 2006, first began exploring a possible sale of the younger-skewing network.

    After the sale, which is expected to close in Q3, The CW boss Mark Pedowitz will remain onboard as chairman and CEO with "responsibility for day-to-day operations," Variety reports.

    The CW launched in 2006 as a result of the merger of The WB and UPN (it was named for the "C" in CBS and the "W" in Warner Bros). According to Variety, Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global, which was recently rebranded from ViacomCBS, will each retain a 12.5% stake in The CW and will continue to produce content for the network — but the volume of production remains in question.

    Though The CW long served as the core of DC Comics' television effort and has produced hits like Riverdale and Supernatural (a prequel of which, The Winchesters, premieres this fall), industry insiders expect Nexstar to scale back on original programming.

    The network has already taken steps to cut its scripted output by canceling long-running series Legends of Tomorrow and Dynasty and pulling freshman drama Naomi, from high-profile creator Ava DuVernay. Riverdale and The Flash are also set to end after seven and nine seasons, respectively, in 2023.

    Despite concerns from industry-watchers — and the larger cutback efforts happening across cable and streaming — Nexstar offered a sunny outlook for the fate of The CW.

    "Our acquisition of The CW is strategically and operationally compelling, as it will enable us to leverage our operational experience to improve the Network's performance through our management of this powerful national platform," said Nexstar chairman and CEO Perry Sook. "We plan to apply the same strict financial standards to operating The CW as we apply to our other businesses."

    "The proposed transaction is expected to create value for Nexstar shareholders by solidifying the Company's revenue opportunities as the largest CW affiliate, diversifying its content outside of news, increasing its exposure to the national advertising market, establishing it as a participant in advertising video-on-demand services and improving The CW ratings, revenue, and profitability, by prioritizing programing for the Network's broadcast audience."

    But given the emphasis on revenue and ratings — two things The CW has struggled to maintain — a scripted content reduction seems likely. The question, then, becomes how far Nexstar plans to scale back The CW's programming, and what will get the axe?

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: The CW, Nexstar, Paramount Global, Warner Bros. Discovery