The CW Upfront: A Glimpse Behind The Curtain

The month of May in the television world is known for two things: May Sweeps and May Upfronts.  In an effort to capitalize on the May Sweeps ratings bonanza, television networks hold their upfront presentations in New York to woo advertisers and pre-sell their available ad-space for their upcoming television season.  It is how television gets funded and how the shows we know and love get to stay on the air; particularly as ratings help convince advertisers that there is a built-in audience who will watch their commercials and buy their products.  So upfronts provide a unique opportunity to educate and persuade advertisers that they should be buying commercial air-time on the upcoming returning and debuting television shows.
With glossy presentations, a wide range of attractive actors parading before the advertisers, and sneak peeks at the new shows, upfronts are the life-blood to the television industry.  If the upfronts do not convince advertisers that there are television shows that either mass or niche audiences will tune-in for, then not only is a particular television show doomed, but the network promoting it will also sustain a major financial loss.  So it is a nail-biting time period and absolutely essential in securing the money necessary to keep television shows on the air.
In an effort to reach as many advertisers as possible and to make the upfront presentations more accessible around the country, The CW held special satellite presentations in nearly a dozen other cities where it hosted a special screening of its entire New York City upfront presentation for advertisers and select press.  It was a unique opportunity and provided a glimpse into the upfront world where studio executives work their magic to persuade advertisers that their shows are going to deliver the eyeballs in the right age and gender demographics.

For The CW, they excel in one specialized area:  women.  They can guarantee that the coveted 18-34 female demograph is watching their shows.  It is a feat that is unsurpassed by any other network.  For the past 5 years, The CW knows exactly how to provide programming that will draw and engage the young female demographic.
It was no surprise then when The CW announced that it was continuing to offer its corral of female-oriented programming, including GOSSIP GIRL, 90210, ONE TREE HILL, AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, NIKITA and SUPERNATURAL.  Each one of these shows easily delivers the younger female fans week after week.  To compliment these shows, The CW picked-up three additional new scripted shows and two new reality television shows:  HART OF DIXIE, RINGER, THE SECRET CIRCLE, REMODELED and H8R.
At its upfront presentation, exiting president Dawn Ostroff and newly appointed president Mark Pedowitz shared their excitement for the new 2011-2012 line up of shows and how the expansion into online social media and interactive games has tapped into a new source of revenue stream for The CW.  Using cool themed terms like “CWingo” and incorporating the use of the mobile smartphone app “Shopkick,” The CW is not just a television network, it is venturing further into the social media world and seeking to carve out a niche on the world wide web as well.  The mobile app Shopkick rewards CW viewers with special discounts and rewards from advertisers while watching CW shows; and CWingo is an online game that can be played through Facebook during live broadcasts.  Both are fun ways to offer more interactive features for viewers and a way for advertisers to more directly connect with the audience.  Particularly as social media continues to sky-rocket online, making it critical that advertisers find ways to track and directly market to viewers looking to expand their viewing experience through the Internet.
However, as The CW is primarily a television network, its focus is still on offering top-of-line television shows that draw the highest profit-making audience.  Knowing exactly how to cater to that audience, The CW introduces three new dramas this Fall: HART OF DIXIE, RINGER and THE SECRET CIRCLE.  To the immense pleasure of everyone in attendance, extended sneak peeks were provided for each show.  It served not only to entice, but also convinced those of us watching, there is a reason The CW chose these select shows:  they not only fit their brand perfectly, they also offer exactly what young women want to watch on television today. 

The following are brief introductions of The CW’s new scripted television shows:
HART OF DIXIE stars Rachel Bilson as a fresh out of med-school doctor who is passed over for a fellowship and, running out of options, she leaps at the chance to work with a general practitioner in rural Alabama for a year.  Unfortunately, just as soon as she arrives, she finds out that her new employer has passed away and left her the entire practice.  While this may feel like a dream-come-true for many aspiring physicians, the enormity of taking on a medical practice for an entire community is overwhelming.  But after meeting the inhabitants of the tiny community of Bluebell, Dr. Zoe Hart succumbs to the Southern charm and hospitality.  Co-starring Scott Porter, Tim Matheson, Jamie King, Wilson Bethel, Cress Williams, and McKaley Miller, HART OF DIXIE offers a breath-taking look at how easy it is to fall in love with the heart of Alabama. Created by Josh Schwartz, the show invokes a feeling of nostalgia for a time of the classic WB era — the lush landscapes, the innocence of first love and the joy of discovering a world where time stands still and allows us to escape into a fun fantasy for a while.  HART OF DIXIE will air Mondays nights at 9 pm, after GOSSIP GIRL, on The CW this Fall.
RINGER stars Sarah Michelle Gellar in the dual roles of Bridget and Siobhan, twin sisters who long to escape their spiraling out-of-control lives.  Co-starring Ian Gruffudd, Nestor Carbonell, Kristoffer Polaha, Mike Colter and Tara Summers, RINGER introduces viewers to the twisted world of twin sisters — each wishing they lived the other’s life.  Then, when one twin ends up missing, the other assumes her life in order to escape her own problems.  But wishing to live another’s life is a double-edged sword and the surviving twin finds herself embroiled in a sinister world that her sister never told her about.  Coming from writers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder, this thorny tale of the web of deceit woven around these two twins is sure to hook viewers and take us down a path of surprising reveals, along with an inordinate amount of twists and turns.  It has the makings of a superb thriller.  RINGER will air Tuesday nights at 9 pm, after 90210, on The CW this Fall.

THE SECRET CIRCLE stars Britt Robertson as an orphaned teenager who returns to her mother’s hometown to discover that she is the long-lost heir needed to complete a witch’s coven and who unknowingly empowers them with her return. In another tale of good versus evil, the young teenage witch will have to find a way to keep the coven from using her for their evil designs.  Thus, discovering who her true friends and enemies are will be a tricky journey. Co-starring Thomas Dekker, Ashley Crow, Gale Harold, Natasha Henstridge, Shelley Hennig, Louis Hunter, Jessica Parker Kennedy, and Phoebe Tonkin, THE SECRET CIRCLE takes viewers into another supernatural world where witches rule.  Brought to screen by Kevin Williamson and based on the books of L.J. Smith, this series is sure to appeal to teenage viewers and those who love a bit of romance mixed with an enticing dose of dark mystery. THE SECRET CIRCLE will air Thursday nights at 9 p.m., after THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, on The CW this Fall.

With that brief look at The CW’s upfront presentation and its hot new drama shows, be sure to tune in this Fall and see for yourself why these are going to be the water-cooler shows that everyone will be talking about. Whether it be the charm of a fish-out-of-water story, the enticing mystery of twin sisters caught up in a dangerous game, or world where witches control everything and seek to rule with impunity, The CW knows exactly how to capture our attention.  I will be watching. Will you?

Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).

For all the latest TV news and reviews