WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS are exploring a sale of their jointly owned US broadcast network The CW, with American regional operator Nexstar Media Group among suitors, according to reports.
AT&T WarnerMedia, which is in the process of merging with Discovery, and ViacomCBS are considering selling either a controlling stake or the entirety of the Superman & Lois network, with Nexstar leading the charge for control.
Other suitors are also in discussions, according to the Wall Street Journal, which broke news of the potential sale.
The WSJ said one scenario could see WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS retain minority stakes in the broadcaster while also securing commitments to be its main show supplier.
Context & international impact
The CW was launched in 2006, following the demise of Warner’s network The WB and CBS’s UPN, and has since become home to numerous originals, ranging from Walker to the reboot of Dynasty.
The network is aimed at younger viewers and also houses WarnerMedia’s DC Comics output such as Arrow and spin-off, The Flash, as well as Riverdale.
The CW has also been a frequent buyer of shows from outside of the US, recently adding Italian period drama Leonardo and Australian comedy Bump. Prior to that, it had picked up UK show Dead Pixels, Coroner from Canada and Kiwi series Wellington Paranormal.
It had also sold its shows internationally, most notably bolstering its linear revenues with a rich output deal with Netflix that saw many of its programmes heading to the streamer outside of the US, a move that helped support its original programming production costs.
However, that deal ended in 2019, since when both ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia have sought to retain more global rights to fuel their respective global streamers, Paramount+ and HBO Max.
While some of The CW shows have been sold internationally, such as the UK’s BBC picking up Superman & Lois, the wider trend has impacted the network’s ability to cover costs.
Despite this, The CW has continued to order originals, handing series orders to scripted shows including Ava DuVernay-produced DC superhero project Naomi and sports drama spin-off All American: Homecoming in 2021.
Nextstar operates almost 200 regional and local TV channels across the US, many of which are affiliated to Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS and The CW.