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The CW’s Upfront Volume ‘Basically Flat’ in a Down Market

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The CW is finally winding down upfront talks in its first year under new parent company Nexstar.

During a Nexstar earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Perry Sook said the network had a good overall performance in the upfront, with dollar volume being “basically flat” with the prior year and unit rates up mid-single digits.

“The absolute dollars are not going to change our style of living, but it’s an important marker for us, the reaction to the new programming and the sports, obviously,” Sook said. “Sports dollar volume was up.”

Nexstar CFO Lee Ann Gliha added that the overall upfront market was down, but The CW was “in line” with expectations.

“Also, there’s a little bit less sold in the upfront in a calculated way because then that’ll provide us more opportunity with the scatter market,” Gliha said. “Hopefully the economy will continue to increase and the national market will come back, and that will benefit us on the backend.”

Thus far, NBCUniversal, Fox, Paramount, TelevisaUnivision and Warner Bros. Discovery have all closed talks.

Last year, The CW was the first upfront week presenter to wrap up negotiations, with CPM (cost per thousand viewers reached) increases in the high single to low double-digit range, around 9-11%. Volume was also strong in linear and streaming, and the company’s sellout was around 80%. However, a weaker ad market in 2023 has led to the slowest upfront in years, with advertisers thought to be seeking rollbacks in negotiations.

Under Nexstar, The CW is looking to become leaner and more profitable, getting away from most of its high-cost superhero shows with its fall schedule, which was recently reshuffled to lean on more unscripted programming amid the ongoing writers strike. The company also opted out of a traditional upfront week event in 2023, choosing to host a press conference about its fall schedule in its usual May upfront week slot on Thursday mornings.

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