The CW, owned jointly by the CBS Corporation and AT&T's WarnerMedia through its Warner Bros. Entertainment division (hence the initials), is the result of the 2006 merger of The WB and UPN. This is a network that is utterly about demographics. Specifically, that demographic which spends more time online than it does watching the tube. A pretty smooth move, since reaching young adults means giving them something to talk about on the Internet (hence their 200912 slogan "TV To Talk About", and their previous "TV Now" slogan, which is the network's admission they don't care if you watch on TV or online).
Nearly all of The WB's and UPN's best-known programs — Gilmore Girls, Smallville, Supernatural, America's Next Top Model, Everybody Hates Chris, One Tree Hill, Veronica Mars — were carried over from those networks. To fit all these shows and add some newer ones on the new lineup, The CW initially used The WB's scheduling model six nights a week of primetime shows (five hours on Sundays, and two hours Monday through Friday), two hours in daytime on weekdays and five hours on Saturday mornings, the latter of which consisted of Kids' WB! lineup carried over from The WB as UPN had no Sunday primetime, weekday daytime or children's programming at its end.note
The network struggled during its first few years, to the point that the Tribune Company, owner of key affiliates like New York's WPIX and Los Angeles' KTLA, dropped CW branding on its CW stations; for example, WPIX (formerly branded CW11) has reverted to PIX 11 (a modernization of the the name it carried back when it was an independent station), while Denver's KWGN (formerly branded CW2) developed a Dork Age of calling itself "The Deuce" with a younger image for a couple years, including removing their older news personalities and attempted to make themselves hip (which made it worse; it's now branded as the comparably staid "Colorado's Own Channel 2"). On top of that, notable affiliate group Pappas Telecasting partly blamed The CW's crappy performance as a factor in its 2008 bankruptcy, which also forced the company to sell off quite a few stations (including some affiliated with other networks), with KCWK in Walla Walla, Washington even being shut down. Furthermore, an attempted expansion to Guam in 2009 ended with the affiliate (newborn low-power station KTKB) dead in less than two years, though it would ultimately return the following year.
Later, though, The CW finally found its footing, with original hits such as Gossip Girl, 90210 (a Sequel Series to the '90s Fox show), The Vampire Diaries and Nikita, in addition to a number of still-popular shows from the WB/UPN days (Supernatural, Top Model), and for a while, the network seemed to be more content aiming for the teen/young adult niche (which they do spectacularly well in) than going for broader appeal like the major networks.note However, new CW president Mark Pedowitz has stated that he sees the network as a general 18-34 network, citing the success of Arrow with said demographic, followed by the early success of the revival of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (in the middle of the doldrums of summer, no less), and while it still trails behind the Big Four, and even Spanish-language Univision at many points, The WB and UPN generally had much of the same ratings at their respective highs, and the network has been recovering from its torrid early years nicely. The network in fact doesn't really care about television ratings and has admitted as such, knowing many of their viewers catch their shows through the network's website, Hulu and Netflix, something that hurts reading the Nielsen chart (and as the general manager of a CW station; the current CEO of Tribune planned to remove the network on some of their major stations once the first ten-year affiliation agreement ended in 2016), but is planning for the probable future reality of television.
On a less pleasant note, the launch of this network was the death knell for African-American-cast sitcoms on network television for several years, as it removed UPN, the only broadcast network that was still committed to running those types of programming. When UPN merged with the WB, the latter network's sensibilities wound up dominating, causing black-focused shows like Everybody Hates Chris and The Game (2006) to get lost in their new network home's identity. While The Game was lucky enough to make a Channel Hop to BET (and became that network's biggest show ever in the process), other shows of its ilk, such as Girlfriends and All of Us, saw themselves getting bumped off. The network has begun to ask for multicultural casting for their series though, and as of 2016, the age where a Drinking Game of "Spot Someone Not White!" was common for the network's series is a distant memory.
The network's weekday "daytime" block, where Kids' WB used to be, really isn't that. Over the years it's been home to an ever declining quantity of talk shows, starting with Tyra Banks, then down to Dr. Drew, then a show with radio host Bill Cunningham that may as well have been Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos without the fighting. That show departed the airwaves in September 2016 to make way for a show of the same ilk by Restaurant: Impossible host Robert Irvine. The Robert Irvine Show suffered from Invisible Advertising, and was ultimately canned in 2018 after two seasons of abysmal ratings, to be replaced by Springer repeats, of all things (an option exists for Jerry to make new episodes for the CW for the right price). The daytime slot is programmed by Tribune as an artifact of their former ownership interest in The WB and its importance in owning the largest CW affiliates.
Finally, The CW is also notable for boasting Saban Brands' Vortexx, the last Saturday Morning Cartoon block to air new shows. In May 2014, they announced its airtime was being sold to Litton Entertainment for yet another one of their Edutainment Show blocks, similar to the blocks they've programmed for ABC and sister network CBS. That block premiered in October 2014, marking the end of an era.
After Smallville ended, more live-action shows based on Warner Bros.' DC Comics properties have found a home on The CW. These shows have established a live-action DC Shared Universe for the first time ever — notably, around the same time Warner Bros. is doing the same for DC movies, but The CW got theirs out first. Fans have nicknamed this universe the "Arrowverse" after Arrow, the series that started it all. It got even larger in May 2016, when Supergirl, which did OK but not life-changing ratings for CBS, was given over to the CW based on the momentum of a successful Supergirl/The Flash crossover.
At the 2016 upfronts, Tribune and the CW came to a new agreement to renew their stations for five more years, though both parties agreed to let Tribune flagship WGN in Chicago disaffiliate from the network due to voluminous sports conflicts and a news and programming schedule that can easily beat Fox affiliate WFLD, even without the CW (WGN's news audience is more traditional and broad, which caused havoc for programming flow from primetime). WPWR, the MyNetworkTV affiliate in that market, took over the CW rights in Chicago. The Hulu arrangement ended the same month to make way for a much-improved app experience, along with a renewal of the Netflix agreement that will see the full seasons of series hit that service a mere couple weeks after the end of their latest seasons.
Being a newer network, The CW has a few bugs to work out with carriage in some markets, albeit not to the extent of MyNetworkTV and Ion. Several smaller markets go for a national feed called The CW Plus, which mixes syndicated shows with network programming (and is the basic successor to The WB 100+ Station Group, the small-market feed of co-predecessor The WB). HD tends to depend on the market (some have HD, some don't), and many stations are cable-exclusive. It also has a substantial amount of stations that lie on digital subchannels, which again may or may not be HD, and most are CW Plus affiliates. Unlike MyNetworkTV though, airing its shows in primetime (except for sports and news situations) is compulsory, meaning seeing The Flash as 3 a.m. filler is a virtual impossibility.
- The 100 (2014 — present)
- Arrowverse (2012 — present):
- Black Lightning (2018)
- Charmed (2018 — present)
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015 — present)
- Dynasty (2017 — present)
- In The Dark (2019 — present)
- iZombie (2015 — present)
- Jane the Virgin (2014 — present)
- Legacies (2018)
- The Outpost (2018 — present)
- Penn & Teller: Fool Us (2014 — present)
- Riverdale (2017 — present)
- Roswell, New Mexico (2019 — present)
- Supernatural (2006 — present) note
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? (2013 — present) note
- 7th Heaven (2006 — 2007) note
- 90210 (2008 — 2013)
- America's Next Top Model (2006 — 2015) note
- Beauty and The Beast (2012 — 2016)
- The Carrie Diaries (2013 — 2014)
- Containment (2015 — 2016)
- Cult (2013)
- Emily Owens, M.D. (2012 — 2013)
- Everybody Hates Chris (2006 — 2009)
- Frequency (2016 — 2017)
- Gilmore Girls (2006 — 2007) note
- Girlfriends (2006 — 2008) note
- The Game (2006) (2006 — 2009) note
- Gossip Girl (2006 — 2013)
- Hart of Dixie (2011 — 2015)
- Hellcats (2010 — 2011)
- Hidden Palms (2007)
- Life Unexpected (2010 — 2011)
- Melrose Place (2009 — 2010)
- The Messengers (2015)
- Nikita (2010 — 2013)
- No Tomorrow (2016 — 2017)
- One Tree Hill (2006 — 2012) note
- Reba (2006 — 2007) note
- Reign (2013 — 2017)
- Ringer (2011 — 2012)
- Save to Win (2016)
- The Secret Circle (2011 — 2012)
- Smallville (2001 — 2011) note
- Star-Crossed (2014)
- The Tomorrow People (2013 — 2014)
- WWE Smackdown (2006 — 2008) note
- Valor (2017 — 2018)
- The Vampire Diaries (2009 — 2017)
- The Originals (2013 — 2018)
- Veronica Mars (2006 — 2007) note