Mark Pedowitz is stepping down as Chairman and CEO of the CW after eleven and a half years at the helm of the broadcast network, one of the longest tenures ever in network television. The move comes as local TV giant Nexstar Media Group is taking over the CW, with its acquisition of 75% stake in the 16-year-old broadcast operation now completed. He will be replaced by Nexstar board member Dennis Miller who was named President, confirming new owners’ intention to take the CW in a different direction.
Pedowitz’s exit is effective immediately, and the respected veteran TV executive will be reviving his Pine Street Entertainment company, which he was running under a deal at Warner Bros. TV when, in the spring of 2011, he was appointed President of the CW. WBTV or CBS Studios, who had been the CW’s co-owners/suppliers, are considered a likely studio home for him in his return to producing.
Nexstar signaled potential changes at the time of the Aug. 15 acquisition announcement when its toppers said that the CW would be shifting toward broader and cheaper programming, including acquired/off-network shows, with the goal to make the network profitable by 2025. Those statements reportedly blindsided the CW leadership. Still, Nexstar also made a point of announcing at the time that Pedowitz would remain Chairman and CEO, projecting a sense of stability, at least in the short term.
Now Pedowitz’s exit marks the begging of the end of the CW as we know it — a full-fledged broadcast network built on original scripted series — with observers expecting it to eventually resemble outlets like myNetworkTV or Pax. Other CW executive departures and layoffs are likely as the new owners start to implement their plans.
Pedowitz, who succeeded the CW’s first programming president Dawn Ostroff, focused on broadening the network’s audience, bringing in more older and male viewers, and ramping up the CW’s diversity and inclusion efforts — while navigating the network’s complicated ownership structure as a 50-50 Warner Bros.-CBS venture. (The two companies will each retain a 12.5% stake going forward.)
A self-professed big Supernatural fan, Pedowitz got behind the series once he joined the CW as President and used it as a cornerstone of his rebuilding strategy. Supernatural star Jared Padalecki recalled how Pedowitz told him and his co-star Jensen Ackles from the start how much he loved their show.
“We didn’t really know how serious he was about that. But even early on, it was very clear that he cared about us as people,” Padalecki said about how the executive treated the talent on CW shows. “He would praise this or that scene, he knew that one of us had gotten a cold the prior week or had just had a baby months prior. He always put people first and so no matter what, we all felt like he cared about us.”
Soon after he started, Pedowitz launched a string of DC series, including Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends Of Tomorrow, complete with ambitious annual crossover events, and continued to add hits like Riverdale and All American. All of them come from Berlanti Productions, which hit its stride and became a top CW supplier during Pedowitz’s tenure.
Berlanti’s relationship with Pedowitz dates back to the time Pedowitz was President of then-ABC Studios where Berlanti had an overall deal and executive produced the ABC drama series Brothers & Sisters. Berlanti was one of the first writer-producers Pedowitz called when took the CW job, and it led to breakout hit Arrow, which launched the network’s DC universe as well as Riverdale and All American, neither of which popped in their first seasons but Pedowitz stuck with them until they did.
“He was the right person in the right job at the right time,” Berlanti said of Pedowitz. “He found so many ways to make that network viable and to keep shows that other people would have canceled after six episodes on the air for six years sometimes, gave them time to find and build an audience.”
Pedowitz joined the CW as President in 2011 amid rampant speculation that the money-losing network may shut down.
“I think his track record speaks for itself,” Berlanti said. “Everybody predicted the death of that network from the time we started, when we were working on Arrow, everybody was saying it was going to be gone a few years. And look at all the things that survived. There’s a whole generation of young people who have been shaped by the stories that he supported telling and the storytellers he supported. Whoever comes in next, they could learn a lot from his methodologies and the kind of leader that he’s been there.”
Berlanti heard about Pedowitz’s exit from him. Just like he did when he took the job, the executive called key talent and producers to deliver the news.
”I’m definitely a little shocked, and I’m definitely sad,” Berlanti said. “But Mark and I have worked together for 20 years at ABC and here, and I’m sure we will continue to find other ways to work together.”
Pedowitz’s exit comes as the fall CW lineup he had put together is starting to roll out. It includes recent hit Walker and its prequel Walker: Independence, both executive produced by Padalecki who also stars in Walker.
Padalecki recalled how Pedowitz lured him back to acting when he was contemplating retirement by accommodating him and his family with a Texas shoot and encouraged him to produce.
“This never would have happened if it weren’t for Mark Pedowitz,” Padalecki said of the two Walker series.
Pedowitz’s exit also comes in the tail end of the 2022 buying season when the networks put scripted series in development for next fall. As Deadline reported, the CW brass recently reached out to the creative community to lay out their strategy which, in addition to the the network’s signature genre shows and teen soaps, includes procedurals and other older-skewing dramas as well as half-hour comedies including multi-camera sitcoms. It is unclear whether that will continue after Miller takes over.
Under Pedowitz, who was promoted to chairman and CEO in 2022, the CW ramped up the volume of original programming, doubling the amount he inherited and expanding to Sunday and Saturday — as well as summer — though a mix of original scripted series, international acquisitions and unscripted series and specials. He only scaled back on original scripted series this upfront ahead of the Nexstar acquisition.
Pedowitz, a lawyer by trade known for his matter-of-fact style, also helped set a digital and social strategy for the network, which became an early adopter of AVOD, making its programming available through the CW app on the digital platforms preferred by its target younger viewers while also protecting its ad dollars by putting its shows online with a full commercial load. He secured full in-season stacking rights to all new CW scripted series and also oversaw the launch of The CW’s digital channel, CW Seed, with acquired and short-form original programming.
On the DEI front, in the most recent 2021-22 season, approximately two-thirds of the showrunners, writers and directors working on network’s original scripted series were women and/or people of color, while nearly 50% of the series regulars were women and 57% were people of color. For 2021-22, GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV report on representation and inclusion cited the CW as the broadcast network with the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regular characters for the fifth year in a row.
Additionally, under Pedowitz, the CW broke into the awards circle with Golden Globe wins for the network’s comedy series Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
“It’s been an honor to serve as the Chairman and CEO of The CW Network for the last 11 years and I am very proud of what our exceptional teams have accomplished together over that time,” Pedowitz said. “It was the right moment for me to hand over the leadership baton and I am excited to move on to the next chapter of my professional career where I can pursue a different set of interests.”
Amid the uncertainty surrounding the future of the CW, the network’s May upfront presentation felt like a farewell, with Pedowitz taking a final bow at the end, surrounded by the network’s stars, including the two that were there for most of his run, Padalecki and Ackles. The choice of a musical opening act also seemed like a bucket list item for Pedowitz — instead of the usual flavor of the summer, the presentation featured icon Stevie Wonder. For the occasion, Wonder belted out “Superstition,” changing the words to “CW is the way.” Following Pedowitz’s exit, the question is what way that will be.