Gossip-Girl.Cast

Seriously, have you seen the ratings for The CW this year?

If you think NBC is in trouble – and believe me they’re in deep doo dah at the moment – their problems pale in comparison to The CW…

The 2011-12 season has been an absolute disaster zone for the network. There’s the freshmen series that have been anything but fresh in the ratings. H8R was cancelled after just four episodes. Hart Of Dixie is stuck around the 1.5 million viewers mark – and generates virtually zero buzz or publicity. The Secret Circle pales in comparison to the The Vampire Diaries. Great big hope Ringer has been losing viewers at a truly horrible rate since its ridiculous holiday hiatus (after premiering with 2.84 million viewers, Ringer recently fell to just 1.10 million a couple of weeks ago). And let’s not even get into the ill -conceived Remodeled which never even got off the starting block!

Then there’s the network’s returning series. Gossip Girl and 90210 are down big time – also stuck around the 1.5 million mark and with casts clearly more interested in big screen success than the show itself. America’s Next Top Model is well past its prime and using gimmicks and judging panel shake ups to desperately try and attract viewers. Nikita has never really taken off and has now been relegated to the Friday night death zone. And who the heck still watches One Tree Hill?

At the moment The CW has one real hit – The Vampire Diaries on Thursday nights. It’s the only CW show that regularly attracts 2-3 million viewers, and occasionally even tops the 3 million mark. And I would argue that Supernatural on Fridays does pretty well too, especially given its terrible time slot.

But that’s pretty much it. One and a half hits. An unscripted department that hasn’t scored a single hit since the network was launched in 2006. And a history littered with series that never made it past season 1 (Melrose Place, Hellcats, Life Unexpected, etc) despite millions of dollars of promotion.

Remember when The CW first launched in 2006, a merger between UPN and The WB. Both networks had shows that regularly attracted audiences upwards of 3 million a time – so the thinking was, if you combined the networks maybe you’d double the audience! Turns out of course that when you merge two networks you actually cut their viewership in half. Ouch!

The CW is partly owned by CBS, the dullest – but most successful – broadcast network of them all. And technically The CW is a broadcast network itself. And yet its ratings play like a cable TV channel. Seriously, it’s regularly beaten in primetime by History, A&E, TLC, AMC, Bravo and a host of other channels. When AMC can score over 8 million for an episode of The Walking Dead and The CW barely tops the 3 million mark you know something is wrong.

At this stage I seriously wonder what The CW can do next to turn things around – or why its corporate backers are sticking with it. And I have to question why any successful actor would risk their career on a CW show. Sarah Michelle Gellar has to be wishing she’d launched Ringer on a network like Fox or ABC that would have given the show a better launch out of the gate.

One thing’s for sure though – the clock is definitely ticking on The CW. Quite how long the network has no-one can say for sure. But if the 2012-13 season is as lousy as the current year expect the plug to be pulled sooner rather than later…