Chuck and Blair in Gossip Girl

The Ever-Changing CW Brand

    The TV world received another shock when the CW announced that Arrow is ending its successful run with its eighth season. The CW targets millennial women with the line of shows catered to that specific demographic, but by 2010, the company experienced low ratings; thus, the network moved towards expanding their audience by adding male fanatics and older viewers into the mix with superhero shows and critically acclaimed comedies in order to appeal to a larger variety of advertisers. The demographic niche has expanded over time but is still quite specific in the audience they are trying to lure in because the CW knows passionate fans can keep their business going.

   The CW caters to millennial females because of its profitability, and even till today, they are committed to retaining this demographic niche audience. Although their female-skewing, 18- to 34-year-old audience is an extremely small target demographic, it was enough to sustain the network for awhile because of their intense and loyal audience. As a result, The CW mainly produces scripted drama as opposed to comedies or reality shows because it allowed the network to have a distinctive brand. For example, Gossip Girl, a show about a private high school in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, fit their criteria very well and successfully brought in the young female audience as viewership for Gossip Girl increased 77 percent among young women. Another popular series that served the young female audience was The Vampire Diaries, a high-school drama filled with vampires and romance, which quickly became the CW’s most watched show among the 18-to-34 women demographic. The CW also subsequently promoted their brand and content as “TV to Talk About,” a channel to “blog about and text about,” which reflected young women’s social media use and marketing power. Ostroff also stated her belief that young women will prefer the emotional pull of drama rather than comedies because sitcoms are not loud enough or noisy enough to get the same attention as scripted drama, which later on Jane the Virgin disproves. As a result of the very small niche Ostroff has constructed for the CW target audience, the ratings fell, so a new network president came along and reconstructed the brand.

    Still focusing on millennial viewers, the new network president Mark Pedowitz wanted series that had a “backbone of optimism” because he knew this could resonate with the millennial’s change-the-world mentality. He added the superhero category to their current lineup with Arrow, a television series about a vigilante based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, which proved to be extremely successful, so The Flash, Supergirl, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow got picked up, forming the famous Arrowverse that has a solid fan base consisting of male fanatics. The CW presented to advertisers the value in expanding their current niche by showing that these new critically acclaimed comedies such as Jane the Virgin or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the superhero series are successfully attracting older and male viewers, even highlighting the evenly split audience between male and females.  

    The initial niche of just millennial women proved to be too narrow for the CW, where they had to expand a little, demonstrating that narrowcasting is important but should not be too narrow. Also, the way these niches are constructed is very much a combination of the successful ratings among a certain niche, the advertisers’ desire, and the network’s own vision of what the niche wants. The latter however can be problematic at times because the network’s own vision might be attempting to group people into niches, where people’s social differences are exacerbated. These niches may misrepresent people and thus divide and alienate viewers from certain contents, which may be detrimental because the content becomes a moneymaker rather than creating meaningful art or engaging in social conversations or commentary. Nonetheless, it is the fine line that each television network has to walk, where they have to profit off of their content by targeting their niche audience to appeal to advertisers but, at the same time, not alienate viewers who may not fit under that niche or do not even agree with the niche stereotypes that the network has constructed. With the impending end of Arrow, Jane the Virgin, iZombie, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, it is obvious that the network is entering a whole new different dimension - and I personally cannot wait to see what new TV shows the CW pick up.