The CW continues to lose money, with a net loss of $78 million in the second quarter, however its finances continue to improve, and as executives at Nexstar appear increasingly confident in their strategy to turn the network around.
In Nexstar’s Q2 earnings report, the local TV station giant spent some time discussing The CW, which it acquired from Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount last year for essentially nothing. The plan, according to Nexstar CEO Perry Sook, is to take a “Moneyball” approach to content (an analytics-based concept popularized by the Michael Lewis book).
That means fewer big-budget superhero shows, more reality programming, and also sports (CW programming chief Brad Schwartz outlined the strategy on last week’s TV’s Top 5 podcast). Though, notably, The CW has been extremely opportunistic in the sports space, first securing LIV Golf rights (in what is believed to be a rev-share agreement), and then ACC college basketball and football via a sublicensing agreement, and finally NASCAR Xfinity Series races.
“We’re competing in the same league as the big four networks, but we’ve got to do it smartly, and crawl, walk, run,” Sook said. “We’re going to take some smart bets and calculated risks.”
While the writer and actors strikes will impact The CW, the network’s pivot to acquired and unscripted fare mean that it will take less of a hit than the bigger broadcasters.
“We have the team to get us where we want to go,” Sook said on the call.
In fact, Sook also leaned into the Fox comparison. “If you think about it, over time, with the same number of hours of weekday programming and its growing live sports portfolio, The CW is increasingly looking like Fox,” he said.
Fox, which also reported earnings Tuesday, has a strong balance sheet and free cash flow, priorities that align with Nexstar’s ambitions, if they can get The CW to profitability by 2025 as planned.