The CW is aiming to be a bit of a David in a sea of Sunday night Goliaths. The network is returning to Sunday nights this fall for the first time since 2009, which could be huge news for the producers and talent behind The CW’s existing shows and new pilots.
By adding two more hours to the network’s schedule (8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET), The CW will program 12 hours of original scripted fare in-season — likely more than Fox in the fall, which will devote at least seven of its 15 hours to sports (and a few more hours toward reality fare).
“We’re increasing our scheduling by 20 percent,” The CW president Mark Pedowitz said. “That’s a big-sized bite. We will do this with the same quality programming we do on Monday through Friday, on Sunday nights.”
Sunday is already a competitive night for networks, with some of TV’s top programs — such as NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” — but Pedowitz said he was confident that The CW had the right kind of counterprogramming.
“We know what programming works well against football and sports, so we think we can program pretty effectively,” he said.
As part of the expansion, The CW is expected to pick up more new series than usual — and perhaps renew more series that might have otherwise been on the bubble. (That could be good news for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” for example.)
The CW is shooting a whopping eight new hour-long pilots this spring, in addition to another “Supernatural” spinoff. Shows in contention include new versions of “Charmed” and “Roswell,” which aired on The CW predecessor The WB. (“Roswell” later also aired on The CW’s other predecessor, UPN.)
Pedowitz said the network hasn’t yet decided what will air there — but it’s worth noting that for the final four seasons of its run, the original “Charmed” aired on Sundays at 8 p.m. on The WB. That show could perhaps be paired with another pre-existing or new show with a female lead.
The CW also now boasts six series based on comic book franchises, including the new “Black Lightning” and favorites like “The Flash” and “Supergirl.” Adding Sunday night helps the network spread its entire lineup out a bit.
Under Pedowitz, the CW had already been aggressively expanding its offerings, adding more shows during midseason. Besides “Black Lightning,” new shows the spring include “Life Sentence.”
“The stated goal has always been, since I arrived here, was to become more of a year-round player,” Pedowitz said. “The best way to do that is have a more robust schedule. This summer a lot of our in season shows will spill into June, July and August.”
The CW got out of the Sunday business in 2009, after an ill-fated attempt the previous fall to sell the night to producer MRC as a time buy. MRC programmed the night with shows such as “Valentine” and “Easy Money.” The plan didn’t work, and the network aired repeats of “Jericho” and MGM library movies, until giving the night back to affiliates.
But a lot has changed since then. The CW, under Pedowitz, continues as a broadcast network but has increasingly focused on its digital strategy. That makes the idea of moving to Sunday less important than simply the fact that the network is adding more hours to its lineup.
The CW began negotiating with stations at the start of the year to revive Sunday nights, and deals with major station groups were completed quickly.
“As one of the largest CW affiliate groups, we are excited to see The CW Network reaffirm its commitment to broadcasting by expanding its schedule to Sunday night,” Chris Ripley, President and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, said. “We value our relationship and look forward to an even stronger audience following with more of The CW’s popular primetime programming.”