The CW Done Making New Shows?

The CW has let go of two of its top executives in charge of acquiring and developing scripted shows.

By Jennifer Asencio | Published

Recent shake-ups at The CW have indicated that scripted programming from the network is being phased out in favor of reality shows and foreign programming. The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Nexstar, the largest stakeholder in the network as of last year, has let go of two of its executives whose roles were vital in the development of scripted shows, confirming a move away from such programming. The network has also created a new executive position in charge of unscripted shows.

The two executives were Michael Roberts, executive vice president of current programming, and Gaye Hirsch, executive vice president of development. Since these were two key players in the acquisition and development of scripts for new shows, it would seem that Nexstar is veering The CW away from this type of programming. Sources did say that lower-level employees in these departments have not yet been laid off, hinting that while the plan is to feature more unscripted series, the network will still have some material that is scripted.

Meanwhile, Nexstar has created a new position in the executive department, the head of unscripted programming, and installed Heather Olander, formerly of NBCU, in the position. This suggests that reality television will be the focus of the network going forward, although it has been indicated that foreign scripted programs will also feature heavily on The CW’s roster. These moves are intended to make The CW profitable by 2025.

The cost of making unscripted reality shows and acquiring licenses to air foreign shows is much lower than the cost of some of the shows The CW already airs. For example, Superman & Lois costs $5 million per episode, and similar shows such as The Flash and The Winchesters likely have similar price tags attached to them. The network has announced the renewal of All-American, and this year’s premiere season also saw the addition of a Walker, Texas Ranger prequel and the prequel to the popular series Supernatural.

Jensen Ackles Winchesters
The Winchesters on The CW.

A look at the schedule for The CW’s programming indicates that they are already moving toward unscripted series as three out of seven nights feature such shows as Criss Angel’s Magic with the Stars and World’s Funniest Animals on nights that don’t include showings of Kung Fu or Walker. The Flash is also in its last season, freeing up another time slot that will need to be filled next year. However, some of the scripted shows seem to be staying, at least for a little while longer.

Nexstar acquired a controlling interest in The CW last year when it bought enough to control 75 percent of the network from CBS Studios and Warner Bros. TV. The three companies all have stakes in the network, with the others splitting the remaining 25 percent, but The CW is largely following Nexstar’s vision, which included naming Dennis Miller as president of the network. Miller then installed Brad Schwartz to preside over entertainment, leading to the cuts the network is experiencing today.

The fate of the scripted programming at The CW is still up in the air since so many of its current shows are relatively new. It is notable that the network has not picked up any pilots for development, which means there will be no new scripted shows next year. We can only wait and see what happens with the shows we already enjoy on The CW.