The CW Is the First Broadcast Network to Wrap Upfront Sales

The Flash fuels hefty volume, CPM increases

After a sluggish start, this year's upfront season is finally in full swing, with The CW becoming the first broadcast network to wrap its upfront sales.

By this time last year, all five broadcast networks had finished their upfront negotiations. But with so much data for buyers to sift through this year, momentum didn't pick up until a week and a half ago, as Fox began writing upfront business.

However, the slight delay turned out to be a boon for The CW, which notched CPM increases of more than 4 percent (2014's increase was a bit under 4 percent), while sales volume was up between 12 and 15 percent (last year's was down slightly), according to a network source.

Despite talk of advertising dollars moving from television to digital this upfront, the network saw considerable interest on the television side, landing 30 new TV advertisers, particularly in the financial services, automotive and retailer categories.

Overall, the network sold just under 80 percent of its inventory, with the rest being held for scatter.

Its strong upfront sales cap The CW's most-watched season since 2007-08, in both total viewers and men, with increases on four of The CW's five nights of programming (Thursdays have been weakened by ABC's TGIT lineup). Thanks to The Flash, the network's most-watched show ever, ratings were up 13 percent in adults 18-49 this season.

The CPM and volume increases also validate The CW President Mark Pedowitz's two big initiatives over the past two years: add male viewers and broaden the network's 18-34 audience. Thanks to The Flash, Arrow, The 100 and Supernatural, The CW's audience is now 45 percent male (up from 35 percent three years ago). And the network's median age is now 43, up from 37 three years ago.

The CW's first-place finish in the upfront sales race is another bold statement from the network this year, after renewing its entire fall 2014 lineup in January.

Its fall schedule includes only one new show (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), with a third superhero series—Arrow/Flash spinoff DC's Legends of Tomorrow — on tap for midseason, likely adding even more male viewers.