Tonight, The CW airs the conclusion to its biggest superhero crossover ever, Crisis on Infinite Earths. And the network is facing its own major crossroads as it prepares to close the book on Arrow, the hit show that spawned The CW’s “Arrowverse” of six (and counting) DC superhero series.
Ahead of Arrow’s Jan. 28 series finale, Mark Pedowitz, who last Friday was promoted to chairman and CEO of The CW, has been busy putting together the next iteration of superhero shows on his network, which he calls “Arrowverse 2.0.”
When Arrow, starring Stephen Amell, debuted in 2012, “there were no superhero shows anywhere,” said Pedowitz, noting that the network’s Smallville had ended a year earlier. “No one would have imagined that this would birth this whole universe and the golden age of superheroes.”
Eight years later, The CW’s stable of superhero series has grown to six shows: Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning and its most recent addition, Batwoman. The network created splashy annual superhero crossovers, culminating in the biggest one yet this season: the five-part Crisis on Infinite Earths, which included characters from all six shows for the first time.
Crisis began the week of Dec. 8, on episodes of Supergirl, Batwoman and The Flash, and concludes tonight, on episodes of Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Previously, the entire crossover aired during a single week.
A TV crossover of this size “has not been done before like this,” said Pedowitz, who decided to split it over a month, following a major cliffhanger in the third episode, as “an experiment to do something different” and help jumpstart his January programming. “I don’t know if we’re going to do it every year.”
Between its linear and digital ratings, said Pedowitz, the first part of Crisis on Infinite Earths brought “unique viewers to all of our different shows that may not have seen those shows before. So we are pleased with that.” (The first three episodes averaged a 0.6 rating in the 18-49 demo and 1.7 million viewers.)
Meanwhile, Pedowitz has been preparing for Arrow’s exit on Jan. 28, building what he called “the Arrowverse 2.0. We will update and change as we go forward.”
Last week, The CW renewed 13 shows for next season, including all five of its other superhero series. And two new Arrowverse shows are in development for next season: an Arrow spinoff starring three of that show’s female characters, as well as a Superman & Lois series featuring the Superman and Lois Lane characters who have appeared on Supergirl and The Flash.
UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, The CW gave Superman & Lois a straight-to-series order.
Even if The CW picks up both those programs to series, Pedowitz expects to air no more than five superhero series at any one time, putting the others on hiatus, similar to his approach this season. “Going beyond that, we tilt the network a little bit,” he said.
Also, The CW will expand its superhero shows into the summer months for the first time this year. In a partnership with the DC Universe streaming service, the network will air the new series Stargirl, about a high school sophomore who helps inspire a new generation of superheroes, one day after the episodes premiere on DC Universe.
“We think it enables us to continue the Arrowverse world in the summer and keep you entertained,” said Pedowitz, noting that the series will be “a slightly different flavor,” much like Legends of Tomorrow.
Like this year’s extended crossover, Stargirl is “an experiment. We will wait and see if the experiment works,” said Pedowitz. “But we are thrilled to have it.”