The CW is making some changes to the streaming availability of its shows. The network is finalizing a new deal with Netflix to shorten the window for seasons to be released on the site to two weeks. It is the smallest window Netflix has ever secured for an in-season period for a primetime entertainment series.
The network is also ending its deal with Hulu for the site to stream the most recent five episodes of current shows. The deal was made in 2011 and will expire in October. Now, viewers looking to watch soon after CW episode airs will have to watch on advertising-supported CWTV.com site and app, and VOD. In most cases, these platforms will only carry the most recent five episodes. It is a big hit for Hulu, which is preparing to launch its skinny bundle of channels, a seemingly easy buy for cable-avoiding millennials.
For a network geared towards cord-cutters, CW has had an odd relationship history with streaming. Where NBC, Fox, and ABC have put entire seasons of some shows on Hulu or their own site, sibling networks CBS and CW have kept streaming to recent episodes. They each have streaming apps, CBS All Access and CW Seed, but the apps are primarily reserved for exclusive content.
CBS has the numbers to prove that its viewers will watch content live, but The CW’s “cord-cutters” are called that for a reason. It is more likely for a young audience member to binge than to catch up on a handful of episodes. It’s part of what makes the Netflix deal so important. Several CW series, particularly The 100, greatly benefited from seasons being available for bingeing just a few short weeks before the new season premiered, with viewer numbers making big leaps each year.
What does this do for the fans who want to keep up with the show? If you’re a social media savvy millennial, you can’t wait too long to watch or the internet will likely spoil whatever happened in that epic DC-crossover event for you. With fewer and fewer twenty-somethings signing up for cable (and more perfectly happy to continue illegally pirating must-see episodes of buzzy shows) the only option available at the moment is The CW site which, historically, does not have the smoothest video player. It seems incredibly counter-intuitive for a network that is millennial-centric to not embrace millennial technology and also adds to their viewer numbers. CW is banking on its viewers heading to its site to watch – and bring in advertising revenue. But we will have to wait and see if the cord-cutters will migrate or hold out to binge.
Emily J | Staff Writer
This story was first reported by Variety.