Is Streaming Coming Between The CW and Tribune?

By Kevin Eck 

A couple of days ago, Bloomberg reported that the CW was looking into starting up its own paid streaming network similar to Hulu or Netflix, which like Tribune, are in negotiations with the CW to continue airing the network’s shows. This raises the question: Are we witnessing the future of affiliation agreements?

The timing gives the broadcast network a chance to retool its strategy and make a direct play for the growing number of viewers who don’t pay for cable or satellite TV. The prospect of a competing online service could also serve as leverage for the CW to get paid more under new arrangements with local station owners like Tribune or online partners. The network’s prime-time audience is down about 13 percent in the current TV season, according to Nielsen data.

CBS and Time Warner already offer online services. CBS All Access, started in late 2014, provides a live feed of the namesake broadcast network and a library of on-demand shows. The company also sells subscriptions to an online version of the premium channel Showtime. Time Warner’s HBO Now was introduced last April.

The CW airs on Tribune-owned stations in the three largest markets, WPIX in New York, KTLA in Los Angeles and WGN in Chicago. Tribune has a total of 13 stations showing the CW. The last agreement between the two was signed in 2006, when CBS and Warner Bros. started the network.

TVNewscheck says the sticking point is the CW’s demand for more money for its affiliation, along with Tribune’s request for digital rights to the CW programming. Bloomberg says the plan involving the separate streaming service will pay CW affiliates for making a web-based version of the network programming available in their market.