By Scott Porch
But the biggest change is that The CW is now — as far as I can tell — the first of the major broadcast and cable networks to make new episodes available on streaming platforms, without a subscription, and the day after the broadcast premiere. The CW’s new streaming app is without a doubt the best way to watch the network’s new and returning fall shows.
We sat down with CW digital chief Rick Haskins to get the details on the recent changes.
DECIDER: You already had the CW Seed app for digital originals and now have the new CW app for broadcast shows. Will those continue to be separate things?
RICK HASKINS: They will. CW Seed now includes what we’re calling Millennial Favorites, which are shows that young adult viewers grew up with like The O.C.,Hellcats and Constantine, so that platform now has its own originals and the Millennial Favorites.
Why are you keeping those as separate platforms instead of having everything live together in one unified app?
It’s interesting and harkens back to my days at Procter & Gamble. The most important thing you can get is shelf space, and the more shelf space you have the more you’re going to be able to attract consumers. Having The CW and CW Seed apps, we’re going to be able to bring in new and different viewers.
You’re continuing to develop originals for CW Seed?
We are. Last year we launched a DC animated show called Vixen, which took off well enough that Vixen is going to be a character on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Season 2 of the animated Vixen is on Fridays on CW Seed, so we’ll have a complete lineup Monday through Friday of DC superhero shows on our platforms at 8 p.m.
Are you considering after-shows or other streaming extras for any of the DC series?
We actually did that last year with The Flash called CW Fan Talk on CW Seed. It was a pre-show rather than an after-show for The Flash, and we would have guests on it like Grant Gustin and the show’s costumers, and we’re doing something similar this fall on Facebook Live.
You just rolled out CW apps for platforms like Roku and Amazon Fire. You’re doing that now because you’re no longer putting new episodes on Hulu?
Until this fall, The CW was only on CWTV.com and smartphone devices because of our relationship with Hulu. This fall, we’re on all of the OTT platforms with the exception of Playstation, so we’re on Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Xbox One. That’s probably the single most important thing we’ve done in digital.
So before, you had previous seasons of shows and in-season episodes of shows on Hulu, and now the previous seasons are on Netflix and you’ll have in-season episodes only on your own platforms.
That is correct.
And The CW app does not require cable authentication.
We do not. The app is free, and it doesn’t require authentication. It’s an ad-supported app, but you don’t have to have any kind of subscription.
You are not on Sling TV or Playstation Vue. Will those happen at some point?
Never say never, but that’s not currently part of the plan. We want to maximize the platforms that we think our audience will use the most. That’s not to say that we might not be on those services at some point down the road, but right now Roku, Chromecast, and those other devices are very important for us.
Would you have the same attitude toward DirecTV and Hulu’s announced bundle services?
I can’t speak to those. This is the wild west, so don’t trust anyone who says they know what’s going to happen six months from now.
Will you have just the last five episodes of your shows on The CW app, or will you have full seasons?
We’ll have a five-stack of The CW’s shows, and we’ll be the exclusive home for those shows for streaming in-season.
Moving your previous seasons from Netflix to Hulu will make them available to a significantly larger base of subscribers. Do you think that interest will feed back into your current seasons?
There is a Netflix halo effect. We put Jane the Virgin on Netflix last year, and three weeks into that we saw a double-digit spike in viewing for Jane the Virginfor our own digital platforms.
Joel Stillerman at AMC told me they generally don’t see availability of their shows on Netflix driving viewership for newer seasons. Do you think your younger demographic may explain that?
For Jane the Virgin, the increase was on digital but not on broadcast. My conjecture is that there are people who are definitely broadcast viewers and people who are definitely digital viewers.
So watching Season 1 on Netflix doesn’t translate to making you a broadcast viewer for Season 2 on The CW, but it might make you a digital viewer for The CW’s OTT apps.
That could be. And maybe those people are cord-cutters who do all of their viewing on digital. I don’t really know. I just know that we saw a considerable jump on digital, and the only explanation we could find was Netflix.
One thing you see in some streaming data is that shows that air earlier in the week on broadcast tend to well on digital later in the week. Did you give any consideration to bunching up your DC Comics shows earlier in the week rather than spreading them across the week?
No. We really love having them at 8 o’clock Monday through Thursday. They provide a strong platform for the 9 o’clock show. This is the first time in my memory that we have not had a new show at 8 o’clock to have returning shows as anchors for all of our 9 o’clock shows. The caveat there is Supergirl, which is moving from CBS but is still a returning show.
And probably should have been on The CW last year.
You can say that. I cannot. [Laughs.] We had Nielsen do some research when we re-ran the first season of Supergirl on The CW over the summer, and we had more than a million viewers who had never seen a CW show before watchingSupergirl.
Are you expecting Supergirl will cross over a lot with those other three shows?
We do a crossover week with all of our superhero shows, and Supergirl will be a part of that sometime toward the end of this year. We’re also doing a lot of crossover from a social-media, branding, marketing perspective.
And Grant Gustin from The Flash did an arc on Supergirl last year.
That is correct. And I think you’ll see more references between shows this season.
Do the DC Comics shows skew male and the comedies skew female, or is it more blended than that?
We have a 50/50 split overall between male and female. The Flash is more of a family show, and Arrow is more of a male show. It all blends together to be close to 50/50 overall.
Do the superhero shows leave you any room to grow?
The two game-changers for us have been Arrow and Jane the Virgin. Arrow really started the DC Comics line of shows that we have, and Jane the Virgin started us on hour-long comedies that now includes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and No Tomorrow, which is a new show this fall. Those two shows were the turning point of The CW’s lineup. We wouldn’t have The Flash without Arrow.
What’s the longterm plan for the superhero shows? Are you at your limit, or do you think there’s a market to expand that even wider?
People ask me that, and I always think about legal shows and medical shows there are and how successful they continue to be. If we hear a great pitch and it’s a superhero show, we’ll take it.