Why The CW May Be On The Verge Of Becoming A Genre Network

Senior Contributor
02.19.13 30 Comments

We’ve talked about how genre shows are turning into surprisingly reliable money-makers for broadcast and cable networks before, but a recent look at the CW’s ratings indicates that this may be truer for them than most networks.

Granted, the CW and its ancestors had a pretty strong genre bent; we are talking about the networks that aired Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Birds Of Prey and Star Trek: Voyager. They’ve never been genre-averse, but it’s always been tempered with stereotypically “girly” shows.

On the other hand, ratings really don’t get more stark than this. Arrow, Supernatural, and The Vampire Diaries (OK, it’s Twilight, the show, but it’s still a genre show) are all regularly pulling 1.0 or 1.1 in the ratings. That’s not Walking Dead money but the CW isn’t looking for that. Supernatural‘s numbers are particularly impressive because it’s on its eighth season, just got renewed for a ninth, and might actually cross the decade mark if it keeps these numbers up.

And it’s about to add a fourth, with the show Cult premiering tomorrow.

All the shows ostensibly aimed at teenage girls, like The Carrie Diaries, Emily Owens M.D., and 90210? They’re pulling literally half what the shows above collect.

It’s not a bulletproof trend: Beauty and The Beast is not a hit by any standard, and neither is Nikita, but it’s worth noting that the reason those three shows we mentioned are successful is because they’re incredibly popular with The CW’s target fanbase, teenage girls.

This has likely taken the CW a bit by surprise. While any nerd who pays attention knows that women are a key fan base in any science fiction property, TV networks have been slow to pick up on this because of “conventional wisdom”. But it’s never been this drastic, and more to the point, there’s little sign the CW is picking up a new audience: It’s still young women watching the network, just showing more of a taste for genre material.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Cult, but we suspect the CW may be offering a lot more genre shows in fairly short order, either way.

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