The CW may be getting a new owner.
The broadcast network is reportedly being shopped by its corporate owners ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia, 15 years after its launch. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the potential sale, revealed that Nexstar Media Group is one of the interested buyers.
Nexstar, which owns 199 local TV stations as well as the cable channel NewsNation and media company The Hill, is the CW’s largest affiliate group following its acquisition of Tribune, so its pursuit of the network is a natural move for the company. Sources, however, told Deadline that conversations with multiple suitors are still in exploratory stages and no deal is imminent.
Hours after news of the potential sale broke Wednesday night, the CW chairman and CEO Mark Pedowitz on Thursday morning released an internal memo to staff addressing the “recent speculation in the press around” the network. Though Pedowitz didn’t outrightly say that the CW is up for sale, he did mention that ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia “are exploring strategic opportunities to optimize the value of their joint venture in the CW Network.”
“First, as many of you are aware, over the past year or so, this transformative time in our industry has led to a series of business activity across media and content companies. Given that environment right now, ViacomCBS and Warner Bros. are exploring strategic opportunities to optimize the value of their joint venture in The CW Network,” Pedowitz said, before pointing out that “it’s too early to speculate what might happen” and promising to keep them updated as talks regarding the matter continue.
Instead of worrying about the future of the CW, Pedowitz encouraged everyone to do their best to make the network even better. “So, what does this mean for us right now? It means we must continue to do what we do best, make the CW as successful and vibrant as we have always done,” he said. “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.
News of the potential sale of the CW comes amid an ownership change for WarnerMedia, which is being acquired by Discovery pending regulatory approval. While this could be one of the reasons for the potential sale, a recent story by The Hollywood Reporter also claimed that the CW has never been profitable since its formation in 2006 when CBS and WarnerMedia merged the former UPN and The WB Network.
A huge portion of the CW’s revenue comes from international and streaming sales of its original scripted series. The CW hit jackpot back in 2011 when Netflix paid $1 billion for the streaming rights of the network’s entire lineup. The CW’s output deal with Netflix helped the network’s original series like Riverdale and All American reach wider audiences and, ultimately, grow on linear.
But things have become financially challenging for the broadcast network since that pact ended in 2019 after The CW’s main programming suppliers, Warner Bros. TV and CBS Studios, shifted library deals to their respective streamers, HBO Max and Paramount+. International sales of the CW’s original scripted series have also dropped, as both studios look to retain those rights for their own streaming services.
Since its output deal with Netflix came to an end, the CW has managed to house the in-season episodes of many of its original shows on its eponymous streaming app, making it more attractive to potential buyers, especially to those that don’t have any streaming component attached to their name yet.
The CW, ViacomCBS, WarnerMedia, and Nexstar have yet to release official statements about the potential sale of the network.