The CW floats $1 million in episode license fees for a drama series – Deadline

Not counting the series officially ending this season, the oldest scripted series airing on the CW is flagship All Americans, currently in its fifth season. All other shows are three years old or younger. This is important because sets tend to get more expensive as they get older.

And, as the new owners of Texas-based Nexstar Media Group have demonstrated, cutting costs is a key part of their plan to make the independent TV network profitable, which involves reducing the volume and price of series. original scripted and increase unscripted and profitable rates.

As part of cost-cutting efforts, I’ve heard Nexstar executives are looking to restructure deals with the CW’s current scripted series providers CBS Studios and Warner Bros. Television, by floating a target license fee for drama series of $1 million per episode. go forward. That’s significantly lower than the current licensing fees the CW pays for its dramas, which I estimate range from $1 million to $1 million/nearly $2 million per episode. (I heard the CW once used $1 million in episode licensing fees years ago, but the network had to step up as production costs started to rise and competition for talent drove up actor prices.)

I hear this idea has been met with resistance, with sources telling Deadline that it’s not possible to produce an hour-long series at this licensing price, taking on an additional deficit, as part of the current model of the CW’s first run and studios trying to find domestic off-network and international buyers.

“It’s tough,” an industry source said.

Another observer noted that the new regime’s drive to program cheaper and wider with an emphasis on reality could drive down the value of a scripted CW series internationally, making them harder to monetize. .

“Where it was DC’s network and interesting drama and YA fare, now it’s going to be lower-cost, non-branded alternative shows that make sense. So if you’re selling a show internationally, buyers will be much less interested in paying high prices for the shows,” the person said.

If the new CW management is open to creative arrangements, like taking series in the second window or agreeing to a shorter season window, making off-season rights more valuable, I hear studio executives might be willing to to listen.

There have been talks that some studios other than CBS Studios and WBTV, which haven’t done business with The CW, have explored deal models with the network, but most vendors are taking a wait-and-see approach until now. to what a new head of CW programming. is called. (Deadline identified former Pop TV chief Brad Schwartz as the leading contender for the job.)

From what I’m hearing, there were at most a handful of sales in October, following the departure of longtime CW President and CEO Mark Pedowitz, who was replaced by Nexstar’s Dennis Miller as as president of the network, and at least some have been introduced directly to the network. and have yet to be fired into a studio as the network’s financial model remains unclear.

Deadline revealed in August that the network has reached out to the creative community and noted that it plans to expand its slate by adding procedurals and other older dramas as well as half-length comedies. hour, including multi-camera sitcoms.

I hear that some of the projects purchased over the summer remain in development while others have been launched. It is not yet clear whether The CW will follow a normal cycle and order pilots or move to a less expensive development model that involves direct series orders and/or international co-productions. (With the network looking to shrink its scripted footprint and increase unscripted fare, its need for new scripted series for the 2023-24 season won’t be as great as in previous years.)

“They’ve increased conversations about Canadian content and co-funding,” an industry insider said. “They’ve done it before, The CW, with the Canadian acquisitions, but I think it’s more co-funding now than just a direct acquisition, which is interesting and different.”

It’s an area that Miller knows well, and someone like Schwartz would also fit in that direction as the Canadian-born executive has orchestrated several Canadian co-productions at Pop, including hit Schitt’s Creek.

The fate of the CW’s current scripted slate is unclear beyond recent announcements that four shows are ending this season, The Flash, Riverdale, Nancy Drew and daughter of the stars, and freshmen Waker: Independence and The Winchesters are not receiving backorders.

Due to The CW’s distribution deals, the network can’t do a full 180 with a whole new programming identity, so the consensus is that it’ll likely keep some of the existing scripted shows — at least in the short term.

“I think they want to maintain some consistency; I think it would be very difficult for them to maintain a relationship with the existing viewer base – which I think is significant – if they literally turn the lights off and back on like something completely different,” said said an industry source. “I think it’s a smart move to try to maintain a direct line, keep the clients you have and move them to new programming.”

Lynette Rice contributed to this report.

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