Who Does The CW Really Target? By Kwaku A.

With new scripted dramas such as “The Beautiful Life,” “Melrose Place,” and “Vampire Diaries,” the CW may have finally found the niche audience they’ve been searching for since the network conception in 2006.

Now add the nets returning buzzed about shows, “90210” and “Gossip Girl,” and then their veterans, “Supernatural,” “Smallville,” “One Tree Hill,” and “America’s Next Top Model,” the net has been able to narrow down on the “female 18-34 audience” that Dawn Ostroff has repeatedly mentioned. But I feel many people are wondering why Ostroff feels that the entire network should only focus on female demographics? The net does contain male targeting programming: “Smallville” (which will most likely end next season) and Supernatural (which is suppose to end next season), but that’s it. “Reaper” which usually received more viewers (though lower demos in 18-34 and 18-49) than “Gossip Girl” or “90210,” (and probably had half the advertising), was recently canceled after two seasons. The show received close to the same critical acclaim and buzz as “Gossip Girl” too, but I guess the cast wasn’t sexy enough to continue with. That being said, there are still male audiences watching CW shows like “Gossip Girl” or “America’s Next Top Model,” but the female demos are the ones the CW tout the next day during their press releases.

And not only does the network seem to be excluding men, but minority audiences do not seem to be a concern either. “Everybody Hates Chris” and “The Game” were also canceled this past season and those shows were primarily targeted towards African-American audiences. And the racial diversity of the new and returning shows is nothing to brag about either (though this is problem with most broadcast networks, not just The CW). Though I do give props for “90210” having a black male lead character, especially compared to the other CW dramas and how little diversity the original series had. Now, I’m African-American and the shows I watch usually do not depend on what race the cast members are: “Arrested Development” is my favorite comedy of all time. Period. And that series has a predominantly white cast, but it does get tiring sometimes watching television shows and not seeing anyone that looks like you. And in my opinion, African-American audiences should not resort to watching a channel like BET which only perpetuates negative stereotypes. Dawn Ostroff might as well say they’re targeting “white females 18-34.” I also find it interesting that this is Ostroff’s focus, especially being the former president of UPN which use to heavily target African-American audiences. And of course, I am not just talking about African-American audiences, but more CW shows should include characters of other ethnic and religious backgrounds because the more diverse ensemble cast a show has, the more likely someone will watch (look at “Lost,” “Heroes,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” or “24”).

Another issue I have with the CW targeting “females” is the kind of woman they’re targeting; not to knock the quality of “Gossip Girl” or “90210” but too many times you see women portrayed as catty, bitchy, vengeful, slutty, and any other word you’d use to describe Paris Hilton. Where are the smart, witty, likable, female characters that audiences learned to love from “Veronica Mars,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” or “Dawson’s Creek?”

With all this being said, I still think The CW will do well next season (for their own standards at least). They’ve found three new shows that seem to be pretty buzzed about and their network has flow from Monday to Thursday night (while I get “Smallville” airing on Fridays, with a show that usually brings in a large audience, it seems to me it would have made sense to air a new drama after it, or even… I don’t know… “Reaper”… or repeats of a new drama, instead of “America’s Next Top Model” encores, which never ever seem to escape the schedule).

In a best case scenario in which all the new CW shows do well and the net decides to end “Smallville” or “One Tree Hill” or “Supernatural” or a mixture of the three, I hope that the net decides to develop new shows that target not just men, but people of all backgrounds. That way the network could become a destination for ALL young audiences across America instead of the ones who want to be on “My Super Sweet Sixteen.”

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13 responses to “Who Does The CW Really Target? By Kwaku A.

  1. The CW is almost dead to me, but it is just my opinion. Ok i kinda like Supernatural with this BTVS vibe but that’s all really. I am really not interested with these new shows and i read the scripts.

  2. Dumping wrestling was a mistake for them. It didn’t do smackdown any favours (which has dropped a lot in viewership mainly due to the switch) it hasn’t even helped mynetwork tv that much, and, yeah, seriously screwed over CW. And it was incredibly cheap to make/produce.

  3. As for the diversity thing, didn’t the CW have a short lived sitcom that had a muslim exchange student at one time?

  4. Say what you will about The CW its a fascinating network in terms of how it works and the thought process behind their decision making.

    Undeniably their focus of young women is too narrow and should be broadened to young audiences in general and whilst it won’t crush me when they don’t I also live in hope that they’ll replace the ending Smallville and Supernatural with more broader audience shows rather than continuing to target the same demographic with what is essentially the same show. However The CW is ultimately following the path blazed by CBS where its pretty much all procedurals all the time of course that works for CBS where as the teen prime time soaps aren’t really working for The CW. I just don’t understand why when your most successful teen soaps are drawing 2 million viewers and low 1’s in the demo you’d commission more. It just seems that they’re happy with that benchmark, especially when they’ve got shows like Smallville and Supernatural that perform much better.

    When it comes to the issue of diversity I’m oddly split on the subject. Whilst I agree that The CW (and all networks in general) need a more diverse slate of shows and casts I’m not sure diversity for the sake of diversity is progress – affirmative action is still racism. I’d hate, for example to see any network commission a ‘black show’ because they have to have a ‘black show’, which is what I’m almost positive Fox has done with Brothers at this point. I’m fine with networks casting the right actor for the right part, if that actors white then they’re white and if they’re black or Indian or Muslim then that’s what they are. I also think that perhaps The CW catches some unfair criticism for axing Everybody Hates Chris and The Game.

  5. Alex, “Smallville and Supernatural ….. what is essentially the same show.” WHAT?!?!? Have you watched either of them? Essentially the same show? I don’t think you have watched either of them. If you had you’d never claim something so absurd.

    “I’d hate, for example to see any network commission a ‘black show’ because they have to have a ‘black show’, which is what I’m almost positive Fox has done with Brothers at this point.”

    WHAT?!?!? They went with Brothers because it scored high in panels with an audience type they’re looking for. It filled a need. It was better than SONS OF TUCSON. I suppose that show was to make the fat white ugly guys happy?

  6. The CW had Aliens In America… and I loved that show, but it was canceled due to low ratings. And as for The Game and EHC; I completely understand why they were canceled and I was expecting it but by dumping them on Friday nights, The CW created a self fulfilling prophecy that they would get axed. But hopefully the net will go back to comedies eventually.

    Now on the issue of diversity/affirmative action… just to clear up a common misconception, but statistically speaking, the biggest group of people to be helped be affirmative action are Caucasian females. That being said, I feel a.a. should be more based on someone’s economic status rather than race, but I’m not going into that.

    And I agree that networks/shows shouldnt just have a black character for the sake of it. For example, in Smallville, they made Pete black instead of white, yet he was obviously just the token best friend and was written out of the show after three seasons. But I do think something like “color blind” casting is very flawed. Grey’s Anatomy is probably the best example of a show that did this and while the show should be applauded for its diverse cast, at the same time I doubt that ABC would have let Meredith Grey be Arab and McDreamy be black. I’ve read plenty of accounts where producers admit that its easier to sell a show or movie overseas with Caucasian leads or for other reasons stemming from that.

    Like Kal Penn’s real name is Kalpen Suresh Modi, but when he changed his name to sound more “American,” his callbacks increased by 50%. So I think that says a lot.

    So I honestly believe that when you’re making a show that you should take everything into account. It bothers me that the question if “they were correctly cast for [insert] position” only comes up if the person is a minority. And FOX’s Brothers could be categorized as a “black show” but then how come people dont categorize Sons of Tuscon as a “white show?”

    So while of course I agree that the person who’s “right” for the role should always be cast (just because most shows have leads that are Caucasian, heterosexual males, doesnt mean it should always be like that), people have different perceptions on what that is and you cant just pretend otherwise.

  7. “WHAT?!?!? Have you watched either of them? Essentially the same show? I don’t think you have watched either of them. If you had you’d never claim something so absurd.”

    I was about to say that I articulated myself badly (which admittedly I did) but I didn’t articulate myself so badly that I said or implied that Smallville and Supernatural are the same show. What I actually said was that I didn’t expect either one to be replaced by broader audience shows but by the same demographic seeking shows that are essentially the same show. My bad articulation comes from not making it clear that I was referring to the teen soaps, although I did expand on that thought a few sentences later. In conclusion though I didn’t say they were the same show.

    “WHAT?!?!? They went with Brothers because it scored high in panels with an audience type they’re looking for. It filled a need. It was better than SONS OF TUCSON. I suppose that show was to make the fat white ugly guys happy?”

    I love the idea that you can take exception to me posting that Brothers is a ‘black show’ but not take exception to the idea that Everybody Hates Chris and The Game were ‘black shows’. And by the way I used and am using the inverted commas around ‘black show’ for a reason.

    “So while of course I agree that the person who’s “right” for the role should always be cast (just because most shows have leads that are Caucasian, heterosexual males, doesnt mean it should always be like that), people have different perceptions on what that is and you cant just pretend otherwise.”

    I’m not nor did I pretend otherwise.

    My point was that simply filling a quota of minority faces on your shows really doesn’t achieve anything and seems as racist (for want of a better word) as casting the white actor because you like the white actor more or think the white actor is a better fit on the show. I don’t think casting is colour blind nor do I ever think it will be I do believe there should always be an attempt to be colour blind in the sense that you should set out to cast a minority just to show how fantastically diverse you are.

  8. Alex, actually you did say the shows were essentially the same. You writing didn’t imply the demographic, it may have been what you meant to imply, but you implied something else. Even if you meant demo btw, they aren’t essentially the same at all. More women watch SUPERNATURAL, and specifically the 18-34 demo.

  9. I could be wrong, but what I got from what he was saying was that when Supernatural and Smallville end, he’d rather they be replaced with shows with a wider appeal (similar to the ones those two have) as opposed to replacing them with more Rich-White-Teen-Melodrama fare, a la Gossip Girl et al; the comment about shows that are “essentially the same” referring to those rather than to either Smallville or Supernatural.

  10. Although I agree that purposely making a show to primarily focus on black characters is a bad idea (mostly because it feels forced), recent TV history has shown how even the best black sitcoms have been thrown under the rug because of crummy decisions from TV network executives.

    Look at The Bernie Mac show. No other black sitcom in this decade received as many ratings as that show did. Yet Fox was distraught over the unconventional feel of the show, as opposed to ABC’s more formulaic, similarly themed My Wife and Kids (and this is the same network that housed Married…With Children, one of the most un-PC sitcoms of all time?!). What followed were two crucial decisions that all but destroyed the show and its ratings. First, Fox forced executive producer Larry Wilmore to leave, and then they kept switching time slots for the show. For each season, the show was given a different air time on a different night. Even if the show’s quality wasn’t deluded from Wilmore’s exit, no one could remember what time Bernie Mac was on because of Fox’s schedule swapping.

    If Bernie Mac and Everybody Hates Chris prove anything, it’s that networks don’t know how to nurture great sitcoms with a solid minority representation, and wind up killing them off unceremoniously. Now that’s tragic.

  11. Nick, Donn’s read on what I was saying (or trying to say) is right. Apparently I really did articulate myself that badly.

    On another note t3shdow The Bernie Mac show isn’t the only show that Fox threw/throws around the schedule at will from season-to-season, it wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last. Fox has a habit of moving a lot of their shows around the schedule from season-to-season, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Fox’s creative meddling in the show was a much more pressing issue than where it landed on the schedule and I don’t think they did that because it was a ‘black show’.

  12. “My point was that simply filling a quota of minority faces on your shows really doesn’t achieve anything and seems as racist (for want of a better word) as casting the white actor because you like the white actor more or think the white actor is a better fit on the show. I don’t think casting is colour blind nor do I ever think it will be I do believe there should always be an attempt to be colour blind in the sense that you should set out to cast a minority just to show how fantastically diverse you are.”

    I understand what you’re saying and while I dont agree with having diversity just for the sake of it (plenty of bad 90s teen movies did this or a show like “Brothers & Sisters” shouldnt have a random family member that is Latino just to be diverse), the vast majority of television executives, producers, writers, etc, are white, so there’s no real incentive to really reach out to people that aren’t… but then again, thats not “racist” its just natural; people are more comfortable with what they know.

    And I may be unclear with what you’re saying, but while I can definitely understand the point that its just as “racist” to cast (or not cast) a minority based off their race as it would be if they did that with someone who was white, but then what’s the solution? It sort of implies that since its so common to see white leads on television that this is “how its always been” and therefore its “ok,” but to want to give minorities more roles is “racist?” I just see a flaw in that. And I want to stress that I’m not accusing you or anyone of being racist (though I feel like that word is thrown around so much that its lost its meaning)

    I think anyone could agree that the US is a very diverse country but television should really reflect that. And I really do not see any other solution that doesnt involve taking into account other people’s backgrounds.

    I was hoping this topic would stay a bit more CW related, but I think its just as important that people are talking about an issue that can be “sensitive” for others.

  13. To Alex:
    You’re not lying about Fox’s schedule tampering. It’s just really odd that in Bernie Mac’s case, it was a ratings smash from the beginning. I mean like 15 million viewers average for the first couple seasons. It’s not American Idol or CSI numbers, but it’s still fairly successful overall. Hell, it even gained higher ratings than ’24’, a show Fox supported for years, and Bernie Mac was cheaper to produce. It didn’t face the same challenge with snagging viewers, like Arrested Development did. Why mess with a winning formula when people are obviously watching the damn show?

    In contrast, ABC was A-okay with letting go My Wife and Kids after the fall 2004-2005 season, despite okay ratings. Know why? Because ABC didn’t really need it anymore. That was the same time Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey’s Anatomy came to the scene and turned ABC into a hit network again after nearly a decade of lethargy. So how come According to Jim managed to stay, even though it earned even lower ratings than My Wife and Kids?

    As for Girlfriends, after 8 years of airing, it’s appalling that the CW doesn’t even give the writers a chance to write a decent finale. Sure, the show got weaker during its later seasons, but not creating a proper ending is one of the biggest slaps in the face a network could do to a dedicated fanbase.

    I don’t like blaming these shows’ cancellation on the cop out ‘black show’ excuse as much as you do, but something’s amiss when you see stuff like this going on; something that hardly happens on other programs that lacks a strong minority presence (excepting multicultural shows like Lost, Dexter or Grey’s Anatomy).