Q&A: CW President Mark Pedowitz Gets Guys

How the network's fortunes changed in a Flash

For much of its existence, The CW has been shunted off to the side by its bigger, and more popular, broadcast siblings. Launched in 2006 when UPN and The WB combined forces, The CW's tiny audience is usually relegated it to a mere footnote when compared to the likes of CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC.

But The CW has suddenly become a broadcaster to be reckoned with, thanks to its two freshman hits: The Flash, which is already most-watched show in The CW's history and the critically-acclaimed Jane the Virgin, which nabbed the network its first-ever Peabody Award and Golden Globe wins.

Along with Arrow, The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural, the shows have led The CW to its most-watched season since 2007-2008, and increases this season on four of The CW's five nights of programming (only Thursdays, thanks to ABC's unstoppable lineup of Shonda Rhimes shows, has taken a hit). More proof of the network's broadening audience: its median age is now 43, up from 37 three years ago, and the audience is now 45 percent male, versus 35 percent male three years ago.

CW president Mark Pedowitz is also using the network's digital arm, CW Seed, to develop new comedies for the network. In a Q&A ahead of next week's upfronts, Pedowitz talked about the advantages of aging up the network, wooing new advertisers and how Doctor Who inspired his crossover strategy.

The CW audience is now almost 45 percent male. What shows are most responsible for adding men?

It's The Flash, Arrow, The 100 and Supernatural.

Had you been actively pursuing a male audience with those shows?

We recognize that when Smallville went off the air [in 2011] we lost a boatload of men. So this was a thoughtful, executed piece of a strategy to balance it out a little more.

You've mentioned that your affiliates are happier that you now have an older audience, which is something The CW seemed to actively fight against for years.

We're still the youngest network, but unfortunately things became very niche. And by broadening out the 18 to 34, meaning willing to take people older, younger, whatever that was, it enabled us to grow. Because of that, the sales team and the success of Flash, then Arrow and then now Jane [the Virgin], the sales team is getting responses from advertisers they have not seen in years and that we never had before. It's still having that core of advertisers in play and who we reach out to. So it's been great.

What kind of new advertisers are coming on board?

We've been getting far more financial services than we ever had. We're getting far more automotive than we've had. And we're back on the quick service restaurant business. So it's changed a lot of those dynamics.

The Flash has brought you a huge audience, but now the pressure is on to get that audience engaged with your other shows. Does that change your strategy going forward as you look at which shows to pick up?

No, we think we have a legitimate strategy that goes forward. Every strategy evolves based on circumstances, but you cannot operate a strategy off of fear. So what we do not want to do is let fear dictate what the strategy is. We know what we want to do as a team. The owners agree. The studios bought into it. And it's proven to have worked in a lot of different ways. Like everything else, a little luck doesn't hurt. And we're thrilled that Flash gave us huge commercial potential, being the highest rated show ever on The CW.

In January, you renewed up your entire fall schedule, which is a first for the network. What led you to make a mic-dropping statement like that?