It seems like The CW opted to celebrate Friday the 13th a day early with a massive bloodbath yesterday. The network announced a huge wave of series cancellations, effectively cutting their lineup in half.

Ultimately, The CW canceled more shows than it renewed, bringing its number of scripted original programs for the 2022-2023 slate down to the lowest it’s been since 2012.

According to data gathered by The Hollywood Reporter, The CW’s 2022 cancellation wave is actually the largest the network has seen in at least the last decade. (Cancellations usually average 3-4 shows yearly.) You can view a record of The CW’s series renewal and cancellation patterns since 2012 below.

CW cancellation records via The Hollywood Reporter

So, what the heck is actually going on over at The CW? Let’s take a look.

The CW: What’s canceled and what’s renewed

First off, here is the CW lineup as it currently stands following the May 12 cancellations:

Canceled CW series

The 4400, ending after one season

Batwoman, ending with season 3

Charmed, ending with season 4

DC’s Naomi, ending after one season

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, ending with season 7

Dynasty, ending with season 5

In the Dark, ending with season 4

Roswell, New Mexico, ending with season 4

Renewed CW series

All American

The Flash

Kung Fu

Nancy Drew


Superman & Lois


New CW series in 2022-2023

Gotham Knights, a DC series

Walker: Independence, a Walker prequel series

The Winchesters, a Supernatural prequel series

Why did The CW give so many shows the axe?

Follow the money

To understand the recent CW bloodbath (their “Red Wedding,” as Vampire Diaries creator Julie Plec described it), it’s helpful to first understand how the network has operated for nearly two decades.

When THR announced Warner Media was looking into the sale of The CW, the report came with a particular fact that the internet latched onto: that since its launch in 2006, The CW has never been profitable. 

Well, selling made sense then, the internet agreed. Because who let them keep going so long without making money, anyways? Surely, that’s not how a business should work!

It turns out, that’s exactly how businesses work sometimes.

Essentially, The CW itself never needed to be directly profitable, because its stakeholders WB and CBS could make their CW money elsewhere. Namely, this revenue comes from two avenues: international rights deals that allow CW shows to stream in other countries, and a massive licensing deal with Netflix, which allows the streaming platform to host CW content.

Following the money helps explain a lot of The CW’s programming decisions, actually. To a degree, the network has become synonymous over the past few years with allowing shows to stay past their welcome. (Dynasty running for five seasons, despite being the network’s lowest-rated program, makes a lot more sense when you learn it’s profitable internationally.)

But with the impending sale of the network, the shifting streaming market, and new corporate mergers, things are about to change at The CW.

A future in flux

So, what’s with all the cancellations? The short version of the story is this: with the entertainment market changing, the old model just isn’t going to work for The CW anymore.

The CW’s parent companies, Warner Media and CBS Studios, now have their own streaming platforms (HBO Max and Paramount+, respectively). So, they decided they don’t want to give Netflix – a competitor – exclusive access to their shows anymore. No more Netflix deal money means no more dumping cash into shows that don’t bring in viewers. International revenues have also taken a hit, forcing the network to reassess its business model.

Following yesterday’s cancellations, only three CW shows (All American, The Flash, and Riverdale) will have outstanding deals to stream on Netflix. The network will be able to promote its eight remaining shows on its website and streaming app, CW Seed.

Sources to THR also shared some of the recent cancellations are directly financially motivated. (Reportedly DC shows Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow received the axe earlier than the massive cuts yesterday because Warner didn’t want to pay to up the lease on their studio space, which expired May 1. Both shows were canceled April 29.)

Overall, the true future of The CW remains up in the air. Until the network is officially sold, pinpointing a direction for its content plan is pretty much impossible. Will the new owners up the number of original scripted shows again? Will they shift a focus to streaming? Will The CW end up hosting more acquired series instead? For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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