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The CW put up for sale as WarnerMedia, ViacomCBS explore options

The CW is home to drama series such as Walker

WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS are exploring the possibility of selling their jointly owned US broadcast network The CW, according to reports.

Texas-headquartered local-TV giant Nexstar Media Group is among the frontrunners to acquire either a majority stake in the young-adult-skewing network or the entire entity. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper said the most likely scenario would see Nexstar, which owns around 200 local TV stations, acquire a majority stake in The CW, with ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia jointly retaining a minority ownership position, as well as a commitment to continue being the main programme suppliers to the network. As it stands, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia both own 50% of The CW.

Other parties are also said to be interested in the acquisition, although Nexstar’s discussions are reported to be at the most advanced stage.

CBS produces several popular series for The CW, including Walker, Jane the Virgin and Dynasty, while Warner Bros produces Riverdale, Gossip Girl and shows from the Arrowverse franchise.

In addition to US series, The CW has also licensed a wide range of international programming, including Canadian dramas Coroner and Burden of Truth, Italian drama Leonardo and Australian comedy-drama Bump.

The CW launched in September 2006 after its two predecessors, The WB and UPN, ceased operations. Early on, the network was focused on women aged 18 to 34, but its target audience has broadened in subsequent years to cater equally to men and women.

While The CW is not profitable in and of itself, shows produced for the network have been valuable to both WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS, which have generated substantial revenues from selling the shows to other outlets.

For example, in 2011 The CW inked a lucrative output deal with Netflix that ran until 2019. The network also recently sold Greg Berlanti superhero drama Superman & Lois to the BBC in the UK.

When the Netflix output deal ended in 2019, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia shifted strategy to begin placing CW library titles on their respective streaming platforms Paramount+ and HBO Max.

The discussions come as WarnerMedia parent company AT&T prepares to spin it off as part of a mega merger with Discovery. That deal is expected to close in the middle of 2022, pending regulatory approval.

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