What’s Going On With The CW’s Ownership, and Who’s Interested in Buying?

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When The WB and UPN merged to create a new broadcast network in 2006, executives dubbed the new channel The CW in honor of its two owners, CBS and Warner Bros. But now, after nearly 16 years and a few corporate reorganizations, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia may sell The CW, which has become a destination for young TV viewers.

On January 5, The Wall Street Journal reported that the two companies are considering selling all or a significant portion of The CW, citing sources who said that network brass have been having such conversations for several months now.

Per the Journal, The CW isn’t profitable by itself, but ViacomCBS and Warner Bros. find value in the TV shows they produce for the network, especially when the shows find success on streaming platforms like Netflix. These days, of course, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia have their own streaming services—Paramount+ and HBO Max, respectively—that can stream CW programs. (Warner Bros. produces the Arrowverse shows, CBS produces Charmed and Walker, and shows that don’t relate to DC Comics or CBS intellectual property are coproductions between the two companies, per The Hollywood Reporter.)

Jared Padalecki as Cordell in Walker

‘Walker’ (Rebecca Brenneman/The CW)

Indeed, The CW has never been profitable, according to THR, but much of the network’s revenue has come from selling its scripted originals to streaming services and international networks. With ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia channeling their new content to their own streaming platforms these days, both of those revenue streams are drying up.

Nexstar Media Group is one of the potential buyers interested in The CW, with sources telling the Journal that one likely outcome would be Nexstar buying a controlling stake while ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia stay on as minority owners and primary content providers. The sources added that the discussions with Nexstar are further along than those with other interested parties.

Charmed

‘Charmed’ (Colin Bentley/The CW)

According to Variety, Nexstar owns 199 TV stations and has CW affiliates in major markets around the United States, including stations in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, and Washington, D.C. The trade magazine speculates that Nexstar may want to have more influence over CW programming and scheduling, to target demographics other than 18-to-34-year-olds, or to take the CW streaming platform CW Seed in another direction.

In a memo sent to CW employees and obtained by THR, network CEO Mark Pedowitz confirmed that ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia are “exploring strategic opportunities to optimize the value of their joint venture” in the 15-year-old CW.

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“So, what does this mean for us right now?” he added. “It means we must continue to do what we do best [and] make The CW as successful and vibrant as we have always done. We have a lot of work ahead of us—with more original programming than ever, this season’s expansion to Saturday night, our growing digital and streaming platforms—and we thrive when we come together and build The CW together.”