Nexstar and The CW: Where things stand now


CW cancellations fuel speculation of deal forthcoming

Five months ago, The CW – the joint venture between Warner Media (now Discovery Warner Bros.) and ViacomCBS (now Paramount Global), created by the merger of UPN and The  WB in 2006 was up for sale, with Irving, Tex.-based Nexstar the leading suitor. 

So where does things stand now? 

A glimpse of The CW’s future unraveled Thursday when the network announced numerous cancellations (you can view the list of canceled shows here.) Including shows that were canceled earlier, nine programs had the rug pulled from right under them – all scripted, surprising given The CW eased up on cancelling shows and began renewing everything – in fact, the last canceled CW show up to this season was Katy Keene. They could do so because international sales and Netflix deals helped pay the freight, which explains why a lame remake of Dynasty nobody watched was on the air for five seasons. Aside from a few shows, those deals dried up and of course, Netflix now has problems of their own to deal with.

But as we all know, the television business has changed a lot since The CW started being more charitable. The rise of streaming for one, may have led The CW to become obsolete given the network partners have their own streaming outlets for shows – for Warner it’s HBO Max, for CBS it’s Paramount Plus. 

Another is both companies have gone under corporate structure changes. In the sixteen years The CW has existed, Warner Bros. was sold to AT&T, then sold again to Discovery Communications, while CBS Corporation reunited with Viacom in 2019 after fourteen years apart, and renamed the company Paramount Global. The joint venture of owning a network isn’t new, as Paramount successor company Gulf + Western and MCA (now NBCUniversal) shared ownership of cable’s USA Network in the 1980s and 1990s – and both would go under ownership changes in the latter decade. The venture ended in 1998 when the MCA side under ownership of Seagram bought out Paramount/Viacom’s stake in USA, and weeks later, Barry Diller would buy controlling interest in the channel, merging it and Sci-Fi Network with his portfolio of networks including the Home Shopping Network.  

Today, it’s clear the joint venture ownership no longer works. The CW has struggled this season, tied for 21st place among all networks and at times scored hash mark ratings, including the shows canceled Thursday. But there was an outpouring of outrage on social media as remember, CW viewership is younger than most broadcast networks and is more tech savvy. 

An article in Deadline Thursday on the purge stated Nexstar is still on track to buy the network, saying it should “expected to close in the next few weeks”, though news on the acquisition has been scant and any deal to buy The CW still hasn’t been formally announced. This is unusual given any big media acquisition (such as Discovery merging with WarnerMedia) is announced up front. (For more on how this could play out locally, with WGN-TV owned by Nexstar and WCIU being a CW affiliate, click here.) 

There were also questions on how The CW would look under Nexstar ownership with speculation running rampant (on Twitter anyway) on a complete change by attracting more viewers from “middle America” (i.e. any place outside of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the Bay Area) and backing away from LGBTQ representation as their content is coming under fire from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Many pegged Nexstar as a “right-wing broadcaster”, confusing the station group with conservative broadcaster Sinclair, whose often clashed with the broadcast networks they’re affiliated with over content.  Both Nexstar and Sinclair own the vast majority of CW affiliates outside of Paramount, and had been distancing themselves away from younger viewers to focus more on news (i.e. NewsNation) as more and more of them are shifting to streaming. 

Apparently, The CW schedule going forward is going to look different as we may see more low-budget and foreign programming. It’ll be a new era indeed, but we won’t know what would take shape officially until Nexstar takes over – that is, if the sale happens. 


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