As The CW cut away most of its scripted series over the past two seasons, then built up its 2023-24 schedule with a number of series that originated elsewhere, a narrative took hold: The network, under new owners Nexstar, was looking for inexpensive programming to fill its lineup and abandoning homegrown original series to chase profits.
It came as something of a surprise, then, when Brad Schwartz, entertainment president at The CW, told reporters Thursday that the network was in production on a dozen scripted shows and developing several others. It’s the first time since local TV giant Nexstar took majority ownership of the network in October 2022 that The CW (which also made some cuts in development and current programming afte the ownership change) has really outlined how it plans to find and develop new series.
The network on Thursday announced two series that it’s co-producing for 2024: Joan, starring Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones) as notorious jewel thief Joan Hannington, and The Librarians: The Next Chapter, a spinoff of the 2014-18 TNT series from Dean Devlin. (The network also acquired The Swarm, a sci-fi limited series that debuted in Germany in March.) Joan is a co-production with ITV in the U.K., and The CW will produce the new Librarians series with Devlin’s Electric Entertainment. They’ll join holdovers All American and Walker, along with a number of shows that have already aired in Canada and elsewhere. The future of the three remaining bubble series on the current CW schedule — All American: Homecoming, Gotham Knights and Superman & Lois — is still to be determined.
Schwartz also said that The CW will become a creative partner on future seasons of some of the acquired shows it’s airing in 2023-24, including the drama Sullivan’s Crossing.
“It’s a mix of everything,” Schwartz said of his approach to development. “There are a bunch of things that are homegrown, some of it is co-productions, some of it is, like, the new season of Son of a Critch. … Then there are shows like Joan, which is built from the ground up and is a co-production between us and ITV. We have to be entrepreneurial — we can’t just write a $10 million per episode check for a show with some dragons in it. We’ll find acquisitions that turn into co-productions and maybe some [projects] that need deficit financing from a studio.”
Schwartz also pushed back at the notion that the acquired series on the fall schedule are being done on the cheap. Citing Sullivan’s Crossing, he said the drama (whose first season aired in Canada earlier in the spring) didn’t cost any less than licensing a homegrown series from a third-party studio. “I don’t differentiate homegrown from acquired,” he said. “We’ve picked shows we think have a chance to do well. … Every single show we acquire, we do because we believe in it, and we do a deal [with the producers] to be involved in creatively going forward.”
Shortly after Schwartz took the entertainment president job at The CW, he told that his team would have to be “scrappy” and “nimble” in making original programming in order to meet Nexstar’s goal of making the network profitable by 2025. “We’ll have to be contrarian and think differently but that shouldn’t get in way of ambition,” he said then.
How that philosophy will play out remains to be seen.