Second string CW targets male viewers with ‘Arrow’ and ‘Cult’

Is the audience for the CW, a network known for shows about teenage vampires and trendy high school students, getting a little long in the tooth?

This season, the median age of its audience is nearly 42.

That looks like trouble. The female-friendly, 7-year-old network targets the 18- to 34-year-old demographic. But CW’s executives aren’t running away from middle age. They are trying to attract a more diverse audience.

“I thought we had become too niche,” said CW President Mark Pedowitz, who took the reins at the network in 2011. “And, the thing is, you want everyone to participate.”

The network, a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros., underwent a series of changes this season — including a massively overhauled schedule and a delayed season start — in a bid to turn around last season’s disappointing ratings, which saw a 15 percent slide in total viewership and an 18 percent drop in the young adult demographic, according to Nielsen.

Its programming slate, in turn, ventured outside the juniors department, beefing up with darker fare — with the superhero drama “Arrow,” the procedural show “Beauty and the Beast” and the recent launch “Cult” — partly as an attempt to lure a male. audience.

They also rejiggered the channel’s signature female-saccharine formula with the additions of “Emily Owens, M.D.” and the “Sex and the City” prequel “The Carrie Diaries.”

The 2013-14 slate is shaping up to be equally brand-expanding. The network has eight pilots in development, some in line with its traditional personality, such as “The Vampire Diaries” spinoff “The Originals.”

Others are venturing a bit outside the brand lines. The network has a number of science fiction projects in the works, one about a romance between a human girl and an alien boy, and another set 97 years after a nuclear war, about human survivors on a spaceship traveling back to Earth to recolonize the planet.

The network was born of the former fledgling networks WB and UPN. (Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times, is the network’s biggest affiliate, with 13 television stations that run CW programming.)

Since its launch, the CW’s ratings — like the networks from which it was born — have perpetually trailed behind Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC. But the network’s executives have long said those numbers don’t represent their actual audience, one habituated to untraditional viewing habits such as watching their shows on laptops or tablets, or using a DVR to watch CW shows a day or two later.

Digital platforms now account for 20 percent of the CW’s in-season viewership, according to the network. Becoming stronger in that area is a big priority.

“Arrow” is the network’s most-watched show, and the only one generating a real pulse in the traditional Nielsen sense.

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