CW network a "Model" performer in debut
Thursday September 21 10:22 PM ET
The new CW network shone brightly walking down the runway on its debut night.
The network officially launched Wednesday with a two-hour season premiere of "America's Next Top Model," which drove it to a primetime network win in its target demographics of adults 18-34 (3.2 rating/10 share) and women 18-34 (4.9/14).
The CW, the successor to the WB and UPN networks, delivered 5.3 million viewers and a 2.6/7 in adults 18-49, the show's best premiere rating in the demo and its second-best viewership in six cycles, when it aired on UPN.
All this was despite two other big reality shows airing against it -- NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" -- and the fact that "Top Model" was on different stations Wednesday than it was last year in 71% of the country.
CW president of entertainment Dawn Ostroff said she felt a mixture of relief and excitement when she first saw the numbers Thursday morning.
"I don't think any of us really anticipated that," she said. "At the end of the day, we knew if we got viewers there, they would have a good time and love it, and we were really proud of the way the network looked last night. But I don't think any of us thought we would wind up with the best premiere numbers ever -- that was a real bonus for us." It was up 7% in adults 18-34 and 13% in viewership compared with last fall's premiere.
Ostroff added that the good performance of "Top Model" doesn't mean that she can relax just yet.
On the contrary, "it makes us as nervous as ever (about the ratings for CW's other shows)," she said. "We can't really predict how anything will premiere . . . and we know that it's going to take time. We've still got a lot ahead of us, but this is a great starting point for the network, and our goal is to grow from there."
Ostroff pointed out that while Wednesday night's ratings demonstrate that viewers who once watched UPN were able to find the new channel, the question of whether former WB Network viewers will successfully make the transition in their respective markets to a new station for their favorite returning shows won't be answered until next week. About 27% of U.S. TV households are having to make the switch from a former WB affiliate to a new station to find the CW's schedule, which is composed primarily of former WB and UPN programs. "7th Heaven" will be the first of the former WB shows to premiere on CW on Monday.
Compared with WB's premiere on January 11, 1995, the CW did pretty well. That two-hour debut lineup -- which included "The Wayans Brothers," "Unhappily Ever After" and "Muscle" -- averaged 2.9 million viewers, a 1.7/5 in adults 18-34 and a 1.5/4 in adults 18-49. But it can't compete with UPN's premiere five days later that year, with the two-hour premiere of "Star Trek: Voyager" that delivered 21.3 million viewers to the startup network plus a 10.4/23 in adults 18-34 and an 11.5/24 in adults 18-49. Both had different station lineups, however, and it was a different time in the TV world.
Meanwhile, the CW became Wednesday's top-rated network in women 18-34 in eight of the top 10 markets. That includes New York (7.6/25), where it beat the rest of the broadcast networks combined, as well as Los Angeles (6.3/18), Chicago (5.7/19), Philadelphia (9.9/24) and San Francisco (4.2/14). It was the top network in adults 18-49 in seven of the top 10 markets including New York (4.5/16), Los Angeles (4.4/13), Chicago (3.7/12) and Philadelphia (6.7/19).
Some on Madison Avenue, however, weren't sure whether the strong ratings were going to last.
"I think there will be a slight spike up there, but I don't think it's realistic to believe" that the ratings will sustain an increase, said Horizon Media research chief Brad Adgate. He pointed out that there are only two new shows on the CW beside the combined WB-UPN schedule, and that the viewers who wanted to see "7th Heaven," "Gilmore Girls" and "Veronica Mars" already were watching them.
"If they really liked the shows, they would have watched them before," Adgate said.