The CW’s Old Shows Are Still Being Helped By Netflix

Recently, Netflix published the number of hours viewed of all titles on their platform from January 1, 2023 through June 30, 2023. This includes many shows from The CW, most of which have recently ended; the expired deal with Netflix means these shows leave the platform five years after their series finales. We’ve been told they were quite popular in their heyday, but what about now? In this article, we take a look at the current numbers of hours viewed by series, and the overall trends they show. But first, here’s a breakdown of the numbers that will be discussed. 

Note: The Vampire Diaries was only available on Netflix in select regions in the first half of 2023, not including the United States. It is included in this table because it was included in Netflix’s report.

Table 1: Number of hours viewed by season, as reported by Netflix. You can scroll on the chart to see all series, and find the report yourself here.

Table 2: Average number of hours viewed per episode by season, as calculated by taking the number in Table 1 and dividing it by the number of episodes in the season. You can scroll on the chart to see all series.

Table 3: Total hours viewed and average hours viewed per episode. Total hours viewed is calculated by adding the hours viewed of every season, while average hours viewed per episode is calculated by taking the total hours viewed and dividing it by the total number of episodes.

Now, some takeaways from this data:

1. Shows See Viewership Declines as They Progress

Very few shows have a similar number of hours viewed in their final seasons as they do in their first seasons. Take The Flash, for example. Season 1 of The Flash had over 68 million hours viewed in the first half of 2023, more than any other season of a CW show. There was a 33% drop-off for Season 2, and a roughly 65% drop-off from Season 1 to the final season. The long-running Supernatural had a nearly 60% drop-off from Season 1 to its final season. Very few series had half the hours viewed for their final seasons as they did for their first seasons.

This could mean that a lot of people are just discovering these shows now, and will get to the later seasons eventually. However, it’s more likely the drop-off comes from two groups of people: those who start a series and decide not to stick with it, and existing fans who decide to do a rewatch of the earliest episodes. Viewership declines even on streaming would help explain why most streaming originals only last a few seasons at most.

2. All American Is Significantly More Popular Than All American: Homecoming

In the first half of 2023, All American and All American: Homecoming both averaged a 0.11 in the Adults 18-49 Live + Same Day demo on The CW. In total viewers, All American averaged roughly 540,000 viewers while All American: Homecoming averaged roughly 340,000 viewers; both likely only a fraction of their Netflix viewership based on hours viewed. All American having significantly more viewers with the same demo rating can be explained by having the older-skewing local affiliate programming as a lead-in at 8 pm. 

Hours viewed on Netflix, however, was a completely different story. All American had over 63 million hours viewed in the first half of 2023, the second-highest number of all CW shows. All American: Homecoming, meanwhile, had just under 30 million hours viewed. While still on the higher end, that’s less than half of All American’s hours, a far cry from its 100% hold in the A18-49 demo on The CW. This likely explains why All American was renewed early, while a renewal for Homecoming came down to the wire.

3. The 100 Is A (Somewhat) Surprise Hit

At its peak, The 100 was on the higher end of The CW’s ratings, ranking in 5th place on the network in total viewers in Live + Same Day in its first season. That season, which aired in spring 2014, far and away had more hours viewed on Netflix in the first half of 2023 than any other CW series. Five of its seven seasons had more average viewers per episode than any other series on The CW in the first half of 2023. The 100’s seventh and final season had more hours viewed than any other CW series in this table when going by episode average. Meanwhile, out of the 14 shows in this table that aired in that 2019-20 season, The 100 came in 12th in total viewers on The CW. It always had positive reviews, which has translated to viewership on Netflix. These numbers finally give us a glimpse into how The 100 lasted for seven seasons. 

4. Jane The Virgin and Dynasty Are Practically Netflix Originals

Jane The Virgin’s first season averaged 1.2 million viewers in Live + Same Day on The CW in the 2014-15 season. In the first half of 2023, the first season had over 55 million hours viewed, an average of over 2.5 million hours viewed per episode. Its Live + Same Day viewership was less than a third of The Flash’s first season that same year, but its average hours viewed per episode was 85% of that of The Flash in the first half of 2023 on Netflix. It ranked in 3rd place on Netflix in the first half of 2023, and 8th place out of 8 of shows in this table that aired on The CW in the 2014-15 TV season. While hours viewed declined every season, its final two seasons still had more hours viewed per episode than The Flash. Like The 100 and most other CW shows, Jane The Virgin’s five-season run can really only be explained by its success on Netflix — something that has continued to this day. While Dynasty’s viewership on Netflix isn’t as impressive as Jane The Virgin’s, it’s still above average for The CW. That’s saying a lot for a show that consistently ranked among The CW’s least-viewed in Live + Same Day ratings. 

5. Not All Arrowverse Shows Are Created Equally

The Arrowverse refers to six series in the same DC Comics Universe that used to air on The CW, beginning with Arrow. The other five series, in order of their premieres, are The Flash, Supergirl (which aired its first season on CBS), DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, and Batwoman. Unsurprisingly, the shows that began earlier tended to last longer; between 6 and 9 seasons for The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow. Black Lightning lasted 4 seasons, having premiered in 2018, while Batwoman only lasted 3 seasons, having premiered the same year the Netflix deal expired. Batwoman notably is not available to stream on Netflix.

When breaking down the average hours viewed per episode for the Arrowverse shows are are on Netflix, some shows are far more popular than others. The Flash averages nearly 1.7 million hours viewed per episode, with Arrow’s ~940K giving it a distant second place. Black Lightning comes in a distant third with just under 600K hours viewed per episode on average, with Supergirl lagging behind in 4th (480K) and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow in last place (337K). The Arrowverse had frequent crossovers on The CW, but viewers are not watching all series equally on Netflix; far from it. 

6. Life Sentence Is A Flop On Netflix Too, But Somehow Not The Biggest Flop

Despite airing in a time where The CW would renew practically everything for several seasons, Life Sentence only aired for one single 13-episode season in 2018. Viewership was paltry on Netflix in the first half of 2023, yet somehow not as bad as some other titles.

With 2.3 million hours viewed for its first and only season in the first half of 2023, Life Sentence did indeed have the least-viewed first season of all CW shows. However, it outpaced all subsequent seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the final season of Charmed, and tied the last two seasons of Roswell, New Mexico. Perhaps Charmed and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend simply flamed out since their broadcast runs came to an end. However, much like Dynasty was around because of Netflix in the late 2010s and early 2020s, it was widely assumed Charmed was around for the same reason. Also, much like how Jane The Virgin was around because of Netflix and critical acclaim in the mid-late 2010s, it was widely assumed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was also around because of Netflix and critical acclaim. For Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, maybe it was just critical acclaim, and Mark Pedowitz openly liking the series himself. Even if Netflix was saving it from 2015 through 2019, it certainly isn’t showing up in the numbers today. 

7. What’s Going On With The Vampire Diaries?

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, The Vampire Diaries was only available on Netflix in select regions in the first half of 2023, not including the United States. That would likely explain why the once-popular CW drama pales in hours viewed compared to most other CW shows on Netflix.

The Vampire Diaries began in 2009, before The CW even had a deal with Netflix and before Mark Pedowitz took over the network, and ended in 2017. With the Netflix deal now expired and it having been more than five years since the finale, The Vampire Diaries is now streaming on Max in the United States. Presumably, most other CW shows will eventually join the likes of The Vampire Diaries and Batwoman on Max when they leave Netflix. Unless somehow Max gains a lot more traction between now and then, that’s bound to cause a sharp viewership decline for these series. 

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