Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Five Cents: CW Clean-Up...


On the heels of the reports that Dawn Ostroff may be stepping down from her perch at The CW My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture got to thinking. Regardless of the reasoning behind the choice, and regardless of who steps into her shoes, there is a lot of work to be done if the consistently fifth-place network wants to become a powerhouse...or at least be taken seriously. I am not here to offer my recommendations for who has the resume to make such drastic changes, but I am going to throw in my five cents about exactly what needs to change.

First and foremost the network needs to decide on a tone. They do genre shows really well, and they also do melodramas well...at times. However, with one of their genre shows (Smallville) coming to an end in May, and another (Supernatural) perpetually on the bubble, it looks like they are leaning more and more toward the latter. It's something to keep in mind when they are greenlighting new pilots. After all, CBS, the leading network in just about every demo has established itself as the quintessential procedural station. When The CW started, it mixed and matched from The WB's familial dramas and UPN's quirkier humor. It was only natural that the kid network would take some time to adjust and find its place, fighting to play among the big boys. But it's been a few years, and we should see a clear point of view by now. Instead, it still dabbles in a little of everything when it should be perfecting one specific.

They need to promote, promote, promote. I'm not suggesting they start to send over-the-top gifts or packages to critics; we all know that the better the extras, the more they hope we'll get distracted by the bells and whistles and ignore the fact that the programming inside is quite thin. You saw America's Sweethearts, right? But a little goes a long way, and the point is that some promotion would be nice. No one will watch if they don't know the show is there, or if they don't know what the show is about or why it might speak to their sensibilities. There is something to be said for free promotion, of course, which is what all of us bloggers and reporters provide. But as much as I may enjoy a particular CW program, I can't necessarily devote what it deserves if I have to do it on my own time. It's hard not to let their shows slip to the back of my mind, the bottom of my list of articles when they're not even consistent with putting money into sending out screener DVDs. In a way, it sometimes feels like they don't want the promotion; they don't make it easy for me to offer it. Two lackluster efforts don't make a right, but there is only so much time in the day.

The CW goes for the young audience, the kind that is still trying to find itself, too. So perhaps they just want to give programming options for any of the audience they may encounter. But it's hard to find an audience, and get them to stick with you, when the demographic you are targeting doesn't watch television the traditional way anymore. And I'm not even talking about live television but not everyone has a DVR either. The younger generation-- those still in school or those who have just graduated and can barely scrape together enough cash for necessities like Ramen and magazines. "Kids today" watch online-- and when they can't watch legally, they have no qualms about finding some streaming site or file share program.

On that note, my final but most important point is that The CW really needs to step up their online presence. Their show sites right now are fantastic with photos and episode summaries and episodes...but the episodes aren't current immediately after air. If someone wants to watch the newest episode of Supernatural or The Vampire Diaries, and they don't have a TV, they log onto CWTV.com...and find nothing until about five or seven days later. They're not going to wait around that long, especially when there is so much buzz online about how great the episodes were.
In today's landscape of Twitter and live-blogging and such, everyone expects instant results and gratification. It's no wonder the network can't make any money from online advertising; by the time they get their stuff up, no one's looking anymore.

Personally, I love some of The CW's programming. I want to see them step it up a notch so that when I tell people I watch their shows on a weekly basis I don't get rolled eyes in response. I think it's nice to have that youthful energy and point of view in my life, and it upsets me that more people don't even know it's there, let alone feel the same way about it. I will continue to do my part to spread the word about what makes their programming so unique and interesting. I just hope it only gets better from here!

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