The CW Renewal Status Report: ‘All American,’ ‘Homecoming’ & ‘Walker’

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Fifth in a series on broadcast network series renewals. As the CW transformation’s under new owners Nexstar continues with the addition of sports as well as acquired scripted series and international co-productions, questions are persisting about the fate of the last remaining dramas from the “old” CW.

With Superman & Lois set to end with its upcoming fourth season in the fall, that leaves flagship All American, spinoff All American: Homecoming and Walker. They all film in the U.S., making them more expensive to produce than Canadian-made dramas and come from former CW co-owners (now minority owners) Warner Bros. (All American franchise) and CBS (Walker).

From what I hear, it would be a very challenging business proposition to have all three series continue on the CW. The sobering realization defers from the brighter outlook shared by the CW President of Entertainment Brad Schwartz at TCA in February.

“CBS and Warner Bros have been so wonderful working with us on those shows and we’ve gotten both of those shows to an economic area, where as long as they keep rating, there’s no reason why we can’t keep them. It’s no longer a financial question, it’s a creative and performance question,” he said at the time.

Amid headwinds from a soft ad market, the CW has been looking for more savings beyond the ones initially identified in the network’s pursuit of profitability by 2025 as its owners continue to spend on non-entertainment programming with LIV Golf, ACC football/basketball, Arizona Bowl, WWE NXT, Inside the NFL and the NASCAR Xfinity Series bringing its sport offerings to 500 hours next year.

To do that, the CW has been relying on lower-cost scripted series. Canadian co-productions like Wild Cards and Sullivan’s Crossing as well as acquisitions like The Chosen have been drawing respectable viewership, reducing the pressure for the network to bring back all three of its pre-existing dramas that are still in play. If they may no longer be must-haves for the CW, for Warner Bros. TV and CBS Studios to keep producing them may be a no-go.

As Deadline reported in November 2022, shortly after Texas-based Nexstar Media Group acquired 70% of the CW and unveiled their cost-cutting plans, executives floated to CBS Studios and Warner Bros. Television a target license fee for drama series of $1 million dollars per episode going forward. That was significantly lower than the license fees the CW had been paying for its dramas at that point, which ranged from low-to-mid-$1 million to high $1 million dollar/close to $2M an episode.

At the time, the idea was met with resistance. In reality, license fees went even lower. I hear the CW pays for the remaining four pre-Nexstar CW original dramas from WBTV and CBS Studios span between $500,000 and $1.5M an episode, with Walker and All American: Homecoming closer to the lower end of the range, making it hard to sustain them. There has been conflicting information whether the license fees are staying flat for next season or getting reduced; it may be a mix of both.

Believed to be in the strongest position to potentially continue is All American. The most established and most popular among the CW original series for the past few years, the drama was exempt from the post-Nexstar acquisition turmoil because, as Deadline has reported, its Season 6 renewal was guaranteed as part of the sale.

All American’s license fee also is believed to be more generous, north of $1M, so the series, filming in Los Angeles, did not have to go through the deep cuts spinoff Homecoming, also LA-based, had to undergo last year to secure its third season pickup at a lower license fee that resulted in reductions of the series regular cast and writing team along with trimming production costs.

Still, a potential Season 7 of All American would likely require a budget cut. The drama has been building toward telling a complete story creatively after seven seasons by wrapping the arc for its main character, Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), who is headed to the NFL draft after his junior year in college.

That means that All American could come to a satisfying end with an expanded sixth season that is getting its order upped from 13 to 15 episodes. If the CW opts to keep its biggest scripted series for another season, All American will likely do what other high-school/college series like Glee have done, introduce next-gen young characters, I hear. In addition to adding new life to a mature show, such a move could help reduce costs, making it more palatable for WBTV to continue to produce the show at its CW-level license fee.

All American is unique as it is the last remaining CW series from the rich Netflix output deal the streamer had made with WBTV and CBS Studios, so the studio could absorb a financial hit from the CW to an extent and still benefit from carrying on with All American for more seasons.

Things are shakier for All American: Homecoming. While the series’ budget was reigned in last summer in a drastic way to fit into the $500,000-$750,000 an episode license fee and despite the series, along with Superman & Lois, ranking only behind All American in the young demos, it draws fewer viewers overall, something the CW focuses on more as it is pushing to broaden its appeal beyond young adults.

For the first time this year, All American: Homecoming will not air during the regular broadcast season but over the summer, launching after the end of All American‘s expanded sixth season, which is not a sign of confidence.

Based on the series’ economics and performance, I hear the series’ Season 4 odds are less than 50-50, with a cancellation as the more likely outcome.

Like the mothership All American, Homecoming also is on Netflix after WBTV made a licensing deal for in in 2022. Walker streams on Max.

Speaking of Walker, now in its fourth season, it is the most watched series on the CW, headlined by one of the network’s biggest stars of the past two decades, Jared Padalecki. Like All American, the series also didn’t undergo major cuts last summer as the drama, filmed in Texas, already had been produced pretty efficiently. But I hear its license fee is so low, just over the $500K per episode threshold, that it may not make sense for CBS Studios to continue to deliver the show to the CW at that price even if the network wants it.

According to sources, it is very hard for U.S. studios to produce drama series for the current size of the CW license fees without going the international co-production route. Doing it in the U.S., even in states with tax incentives, is virtually impossible without major production compromises, like cutting further the number of filming days, significantly limiting shooting locations and opting against big lighting packages, which would make for inferior product that would be hard to sell internationally.

Also challenging to international sales of existing CW drama series is the fact that they are part of an old YA brand that no longer exists. The CW’s new brand is not as clearly defined as it is looking to become a “Big 5” general entertainment network competing with the four major broadcasters.

As for the remaining well performing CW drama series, only Sullivan’s Crossing already has been renewed for next season. Conversations are ongoing with the CW’s Canadian partners on Wild Cards, currently the second most watched series on the network, with a renewal expected in the coming weeks.

I hear the CW also is interested in acquiring Season 4 of The Chosen, which is currently in theaters, which also is looking good.

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