In trade magazines like Variety, The CW is referred to as The Green Network, most likely since its logos and campaign were (and still are) in green, or in reference to it as the newest broadcast network (in terms of finding its footing).
The CW is a successor to The WB and UPN, both of which launched in January 1995. However, both networks can be seen as descendants of the Prime Time Entertainment Network, a joint venture between Warner Bros. and Chris-Craft Industries, which launched in 1993. The two companies later became partners in The WB and UPN, respectively, and PTEN continued as a separate syndication service until folding in 1997.
Both UPN and The WB started just as the FOX network had begun to secure a foothold in the American viewing lineup. Both launched to limited fanfare and generally poor results. However, in the subsequent 11 1/2 seasons, both networks were able to air several series that became quite popular, such as 7th Heaven, Everwood, Star Trek: Voyager and Smallville.
However, towards the end of their opening decade, the networks were in decline, unable to reach the audience or have the effect that Fox had gained within its first decade, much less that of the Big Three of ABC, CBS, and NBC. In the eleven years UPN and the WB were on the air, the two networks lost a combined $2 billion.
CBS chairman Les Moonves explained that the name of the new network was formed from the first letters of CBS and Warner Bros, joking, "we couldn't call it the WC for obvious reasons." Although some executives reportedly disliked the new name, Moonves stated in March that there was "zero chance" the name would change, citing research claiming 48% of the target demographic was already aware of the CW name. At the network's first upfront presentation — May 182006 — a new logo was unveiled to replace the provisional blue-rectangle logo used in January. The logo is a green-and-white insignia which has drawn comparisons to the logo of CNN, another company with Time Warner ownership interest.
Like both UPN and The WB, The CW targets its programming to younger audiences. CBS and Warner Bros. hoped that combining their networks' schedules and station lineups would strengthen The CW into a fifth "major" broadcast network. Unlike the "Big Four" broadcast networks, The CW vaunted no plans to offer national news or sports programming to their affiliates; however, some stations do broadcast local news and/or sports, and many air the nationally syndicatedOrlando-based morning show, The Daily Buzz.
WWE Friday Night SmackDown will stop airing on The CW after the 2007-2008 broadcast schedule due to negotiations ending between WWE and The CW Network.  The network later confirmed that the CW had chosen not to continue the WWE broadcast because the network had redefined its target audience as exclusively 18- to 34-year-old women.
On May 92008, it was announced that The CW was selling the Sunday slot from 5:00-10:00 p.m. ET;Media Rights Capital is being brought in by the network to produce shows during a slot that is often the most-watched night on broadcast television.
Following the network announcement, The CW immediately announced ten-year affiliation agreements with the Tribune Company and CBS Television Stations Group. Tribune originally committed 16 stations (including its flagship broadcast stations WGN-TV in Chicago, KTLA in Los Angeles and WPIX in New York; another committed station, KSWB/San Diego, will join Fox in August 2008) that were previously affiliated with The WB, while CBS committed 11 of its UPN stations (including WKBD in Detroit, WPSG in Philadelphia, KBHK-TV in San Francisco [now KBCW] and WUPA in Atlanta). These stations combine to reach 48 percent of the United States. Both groups also own several UPN/WB stations that did not join The CW in overlapping markets. As part of its agreement, Tribune agreed to divest its interest in The WB and did not take an ownership interest in The CW.
The network stated that it would eventually reach 95 percent of the United States. In markets where both UPN and The WB affiliates operate, only one station became a CW affiliate. Executives were on record as preferring the "strongest" stations among existing The WB and UPN affiliates. For example, the new network's first affiliate outside the core group of Tribune and CBS-owned stations, WJZY in Charlotte, was tied with Atlanta's WUPA as UPN's fifth-strongest station. In most cases, it was obvious where the new network would affiliate; there were only a few markets (for example, Philadelphia, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Boston and Charlotte) where the WB and UPN affiliates were both relatively strong.
Many of the affiliates were previously WB, or UPN, very few were independents prior to becoming the CW. One of the 1st to be announced was the consistent #1 WB affiliate in the Orlando/Central FL market, WKCF. After becoming a CW affiliate, they did not immediately become the #1 CW affiliate, but roughly after 1 year, WKCF resumed their roll as the top CW affiliate. Winning multiple awards for promotions and viewing, just as they did as a WB affiliate.
Although it was generally understood that The CW was a merger of UPN and The WB, the new network's creation was not structured as a merger in the legal sense. Rather, it was a new network launching at the same time as two others shut down. As such, The CW was not obligated by existing affiliations with The WB and UPN. It had to negotiate from scratch with individual stations.
As a result, in several markets, the CW affiliate is a different station than either the former The WB and UPN stations. In Helena, Montana, ION affiliate KMTF became a CW station. In Honolulu, Hawaii, The CW did not appear until early December 2006 where it is carried on a digital subchannel of local FOX affiliate KHON-TV. In Las Vegas, Nevada, independent station KVCW signed for CW affiliation. The network has also affiliated with some digital channels, usually newly-launched subchannels of a local Big Four affiliate, in several other markets.
Due to the availability of "instant duopoly" digital subchannels that will likely be easily available on cable and satellite, and the overall lack of a need to settle for a secondary affiliation with shows aired in problematic timeslots, both The CW and MyNetworkTV launched with far greater national coverage than that enjoyed by UPN and The WB when they started in 1995. UPN for several years had gaps in the top 30 markets, and by 2005 managed to cover only 86% of the country. This resulted in secondary affiliations with other networks and the resulting diluted ratings when programs were shown out of their intended timeslots, or the lack of the program airing at all (a problem experienced by many Star Trek fans with Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise).
The announcement of The CW caused the largest single shakeup of U.S. broadcast television since the Fox/New World Communications alliance of 1994 and the subsequent launches of UPN and The WB the following year. While The CW debut affected more markets, it was unlikely to cause the same degree of viewer confusion, as no affiliates of the four major networks dropped those affiliations to join The CW. (Some "big four" affiliations did change at this time, but for unrelated reasons.)
The WB and UPN were the first major television networks to close since the collapse of the DuMont Television Network in 1955, although other small broadcast television networks have also ceased operations over the years.
It became clear that the Fox Television Stations, which purchased several UPN affiliates from former UPN co-owner Chris-Craft Industries in 2002, was impacted. Its UPN affiliates in five major markets would not be affiliated with The CW, due to the agreement with Tribune, and Fox made it clear it would not even seek the affiliation for its four UPN stations elsewhere. All UPN logos and network references were quickly removed from their stations. Shortly thereafter, Fox announced that it was starting MyNetworkTV, a programming service meant to fill the two nightly prime time hours that opened up on its UPN-affiliated stations after the start of The CW. Fox also offered the service to other stations.
In those media markets where there were separate The WB and UPN stations, one local station was left out in the merger; most of those stations have signed with MyNetworkTV while others elected to become independent stations. Some stations (mainly digital subchannels, some WB 100+ cable channels, and struggling low-power stations) which received neither network's affiliation opted instead to sign off permanently and cease to exist.
Some affiliates have since signed deals with Time Warner Cable, but not all stations have landed within the analog listings. For example, WSTQ in Syracuse, New York can only be viewed on channel 266.
Currently, the largest market without a known affiliate is the Johnstown / Altoona market, Nielsen's DMA #99. WPCW channel 19, in Pittsburgh, is the closest affiliate and is carried on both Johnstown and Altoona's cable systems; WPCW was originally targeted to serve that area before a switch to a Pittsburgh focus in the late 90's.
On February 22007 at 4:30 p.m., KFDM-TV made its CW affiliated available to Time Warner Cable in Beaumont, Texas on Channel 10 and also available on Digital 6.2. Although the Southeast Texas CW Logo is on commercials made by KFDM-TV, on the television shows the bug is just "the CW".
On Friday, April 202007 at 11:00 a.m., KVIA-TV, began broadcasting the CW on Time Warner cable channel 13. The signal is also available on digital television 7.2.
Pappas Telecasting bankruptcy
One of the major affiliate groups of the network, Pappas Telecasting, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for thirteen of their stations on May 10, 2008. Within the petition, Pappas specifically cited the network's low ratings and performance as one of many complications (including the declining advertising market, the cost associated with the digital switchover and a tenuous relationship with a Spanish-language network) that had forced it to take the action .
Although the company had originally stated that no stations would be affected at all by the closing, one Pappas station with CW affiliation has ceased operations. On May 29, 2008, KCWK, a Yakima, Washington-based station serving the south central portion of that state, went off the air and the station's offices were closed, leaving that area without locally based CW programming and forcing cable and satellite companies to carry KTLA from Los Angeles on their systems to provide the network to their viewers.
Tribune's Fox deal
It should be noted that while they have solid affiliation deals with The CW, Tribune also has affiliation deals with Fox. But with new management and ownership taking place, it was appearant that Tribune would start moving one of its CW-affiliated stations to Fox (at least those in markets without a Fox O&O station or a former O&O now owned by Local TV LLC), adding to more questions surrounding the network's future. In a seminar by Sam Zell in March 2008, it was revealed that their San Diego outlet KSWB will switch affiliations from The CW to Fox. The change will happen on August 1, 2008 assuming the Fox affiliation from XETV, who had been a Fox affiliate since the network's March 16, 1987 debut. XETV, which is licensed to Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico under the ownership of Televisa but whose US operations are programmed by Bay City TV, was caught off guard and was not informed of Zell's deal until it was made public in the trades. After the surprising news was made, XETV planned on fighting the affiliation switch in court saying the switch violates a contract XETV has with Fox to run until 2010. But on July 2, 2008, XETV announced that they will be the new home of The CW, and on the same day KSWB becomes Fox5, XETV will re brand itself as "San Diego's 6, the new home of The CW."
The CW displays the program credits on the bottom 1/3 of the screen along with The CW logo and website address. The top 2/3 displays previews of upcoming programming from The CW, local newscasts, or other local programming.
From time to time, The CW airs short programming breaks called "Content Wraps", — a play on the network's name, to advertise one company's product during an entire commercial break.
CW Now was inspired in part by the success of the Content Wraps as it will be a series with product placement. The series was cancelled after 23 episodes.
On January 182007, The CW began streaming full-length episodes of several programs.
The CW's official website includes more features than either UPN's or The WB's combined. The site features ringtones, wallpapers, an online store, games, a message board, promotional pictures, an episode guide, advertisements for the next episode, cast information, and, in some cases, an online poll that discusses upcoming show story lines.
Returning comedies are in red; new comedies are in pink; returning dramas are in green; new dramas are in blue; returning reality shows are in yellow; new reality shows are in gold; sports entertainment programming is in purple.