Superhero content on broadcast networks will largely be a thing of the past before much longer, with Disney+ and HBO Max holding the respective forts when it comes to upcoming Marvel shows and various DC Comics projects. While The CW is still holding on going into 2023, with The Flash’s final season and Superman & Lois Season 3 still set to keep their worlds safe, the recent cancellation of Stargirl in the midst of its third season was the latest major blow following Nexstar Media Group stepping in and buying the network up. Now, details of Nexstar’s original content plans are being reported, and it sounds like Superman fans need to start going hard on pleas for HBO Max to save the Saturn Award-winning series.
For clarification’s sake, Nexstar isn’t aiming to completely eradicate the production of new shows under The CW brand, but Deadline is reporting the company’s financial ideals seek to drastically undercut the minimum funding required to bring Superman & Lois to life and other established scripted series to life. It was already clear that the company would push for more unscripted — read as: cheaper — fare going forward, with a lighter emphasis on narrative series. But it sounds like any dramatized shows that go into production will be of the no-frills variety.
It’s reported that Nexstar is angling to rework its current licensing fees for dramas coming out of CBS Studios and Warner Bros. Television, with the goal of paying out a high of $1 million per episode for the future. Currently, the network pays closer to $2 million an episode, so for a show like Superman & Lois with 15 episodes per season, Nexstar would be aiming to shave off around $15 million just in licensing fees, which doesn’t even tap into the actual per-episode budgets.
It’s not an unprecedented move, in a sense, as The CW was reportedly only responsible for $1 million-per-ep licensing fees in the past. But given the rising cost of literally everything in the world, from production elements to actors with rising popularity, those fees were upped over time. And considering Superman & Lois’ reported average episode budget is around $7 million, which is likely far higher than non-effects-driven shows like All American and its spinoff, the DC show’s future seems as threatened as anything else. I can’t imagine Penn and Teller are equally stressed about Fool Us!
The Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch-starring drama isn’t the only project that would be affected by Nexstar’s licensing fee goals, of course, and there has reportedly been some blowback from employees. For one, the money issues alone wouldn’t be very logical when it comes to trying to produce quality episodes that would attract off-network buyers for streaming or syndication. And if there aren’t as many buyers bidding on the shows, that just means bigger challenges where income is concerned, since it’ll be that much harder to draw outside offers for shows with dramatically lower budgets than CW shows of the past.
Beyond the general idea of saving money, it’s a confusing tactic for Nexstar, as its execs are no doubt aware of how successful The CW’s shows have been on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max. To the point where viewerships have been higher in those cases than they were for CW proper, but still.
The timing of this news is especially concerning where Superman & Lois is concerned, given the third season is currently in production, with filming having started up in September. It hasn’t been reported at this point that the budget is being chopped, but the fact that Walker and Walker: Independence aren’t getting the expected back episode orders doesn’t bode well for anything.
Superman & Lois clearly won’t be back on The CW until next year, but the first two seasons are currently available to stream with an HBO Max subscription. Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see what goodies are coming throughout November and December.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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