Thursday, May 18, 2017

The CW Schedule Analysis for 2017-18 Season

Earlier today, The CW unveiled its schedule for the upcoming 2017-18 season and then promoted the lineup to advertisers. But right now, I'm taking a closer look at the network's scheduling plans and analyzing what is likely to work and what might fail.

The CW's schedule for the 2017-18 season can be found here.
Trailers for the new shows can be found here.

The CW is the last broadcast network to release its schedule for the 2017-18 season this week. It's a network that has seen a major uptick in creative quality over the past few years. As such, its lineup has been incredibly stable. On one hand, this schedule is very familiar. All of the returning shows that debuted in the fall last season are still the returning shows that will debut in the fall this coming season. The only new addition to that lineup is Riverdale which had a solid run at midseason. Meanwhile, the network is also launching two new shows in the fall - Dynasty and Valor. Meanwhile, it's saving one of its more anticipated new series - Black Lightning - for midseason. Overall, the network has a rhythm at the moment. It's been doing very well in defining what The CW brand is as of late. But it's never afraid to branch out to new things as well in the hopes of possibly reinventing what works on the network.

Dynasty and Valor aren't like anything else on The CW's schedule. That could be very problematic for scheduling reasons. The CW isn't like the other broadcast networks. It's a smaller channel. Its size has allowed shows like Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to stay on the air for much longer than their linear numbers would dictate. Synergy is important to help build hits. That means there needs to be some similarities amongst the schedule. And yet, that problem may not be detrimental to these new shows. Arrow wasn't like anything else on the network when it first began. And now, The CW is home to five superhero shows from the same creative team. Jane the Virgin wasn't like anything else on the network either. And now, it's started a trend of quirky hourlong dramedies that get a ton of critical attention. Soaps like Dynasty aren't completely new to the network. But it's been awhile since the channel has had a breakout hit in that particular genre. It's moved away from it but is hoping for success with a reboot of one of the most successful primetime soaps in history. The trailer definitely makes it look like a lot of fun.

It seems easier for Dynasty to be a success than Valor. It has the association with greatness that could present as an easy way for audiences to check it out in the fall. It has that promotion hook. Valor is something completely new and will have to establish its own identity and fan base very quickly. But it may suffer from there being one too many military themed shows in the fall. Last year, the trend was time travel shows. Every network had one and hoped it would be successful like Legends of Tomorrow was on The CW. And yet, ABC's Time After Time and FOX's Making History failed instantly. The future of NBC's Timeless looked bleak as well. It was cancelled too then revived a few days later due to business economics and fan outcry. It's the only show of that freshman crop to return. And now, the trend of the industry has moved to military dramas. It may be how the networks are reacting to the election of Donald Trump. Military dramas may prove that they can be patriotic and heroic. But The CW, CBS and NBC are all premiering their military dramas in the same time frame. Based on the trailers, Valor looks very similar to CBS' SEAL Team and NBC's The Brave. Yes, it has more of a sexy angle to it. It is a CW show after all. But not all of these shows will work. After awhile, they'll just be too familiar and formulaic. Maybe one will succeed. But I doubt all three will.

Elsewhere, The CW is making a time slot change that I don't quite understand. It's moving Arrow from Wednesdays (where it's aired for all five seasons) to Thursdays at 9 (where it will have Supernatural as a lead-in). Now, Arrow and Supernatural have been an effective pairing before. Except they were airing in the inverse of the plans for the fall. But this move seemingly happens so that Riverdale can lead into Dynasty. That seems like a major risk that may not pay off. Wednesdays were a very problematic night for the network before Arrow came along and brought stability to it. The same was also true of Mondays and Tuesdays before Supergirl and The Flash started airing. And now, Arrow is seemingly becoming a utility player for no good reason. Yes, Riverdale and Dynasty will probably pair well together. And the network probably wanted Dynasty in that slot as an homage to the original show. But it feels like it comes at a great expense for what has worked in the past. Riverdale is a hit. But it's a hit in delayed viewing and digital platforms. Its linear numbers aren't that great. Dynasty has the potential to be a breakout hit. But that success won't be able to be a lead-in for another show. It's probably good that Dynasty isn't airing at the same time as FOX's Empire. They appeal to the same audience. But it still feels like a risk. Plus, it also means that Arrow will be facing off with NBC's This Is Us as well as Thursday Night Football. That's huge competition. This fall will be the true test of its lasting power on the schedule.

Overall though, this feels like a very stable schedule. Tuesdays will be strong with The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Fridays will be low rated but have one of the best two hour blocks of the season with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin being reunited. Supernatural will remain solid because it will outlast everything in the world. There are risks that come from the new shows and the time slot changes. But the network also has the support at midseason to fix those problems should they arise. Mark Pedowitz, the head of The CW, said he only waits to air four superhero shows at the same time. So, Black Lightning could easily replace Legends of Tomorrow once it wraps its abbreviated season. New dramedy Life Sentence feels like it can fit in nicely with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin. And then, the network also has The 100, iZombie and The Originals. Perhaps this is the year where the network can finally make a serious play at scripted during the summer months. That depends entirely on how things go in the fall. It's unrealistic to think that everything will work. It won't. But The CW has a strong and stable lineup that isn't afraid to embrace something new either.