The CW television network wants to hang with a new crowd.
The network reached a five-year deal Friday to offer new episodes of its dramas and reality shows on Hulu and the Hulu Plus subscription service. The arrangement is significant because it is expected to introduce CW's programming — including "Vampire Diaries," "Ringer" and "Hart of Dixie" — to a wider audience. It also mines a lucrative new stream of revenue that should help the small broadcast network find its financial footing and produce more original programming.
"This will give us a new platform for marketing and more money for original programming," Mark Pedowitz, president of CW, said in an interview.
The arrangement with Hulu comes two weeks after CW, a joint venture between CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment, announced a similar partnership with Netflix. Netflix has begun making available to its subscribers episodes of past seasons of CW scripted shows, including "Gossip Girl" and "Vampire Diaries."
The Hulu deal is different because it offers viewers new episodes of CW shows.
The network declined to disclose financial terms. Analysts have estimated that the Netflix deal could bring CW as much as $1 billion over the next eight to 10 years. The Hulu deal, smaller in scope, is expected to generate about $50 million a year for CW.
Hulu now can boast that it has programming from four broadcast networks. Until recently, only shows from the networks owned by Hulu's partners — Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal and News Corp.'s Fox — could be seen on the service. CW shows are targeted to younger, more technology-savvy viewers — those more likely to watch shows on their computers.
The two deals mark a major switch in strategy for CW, which until now kept a tight grip on the digital rights to its shows. In an attempt to protect its TV ratings, the network delayed the online availability of the latest episodes and steered viewers to its own advertising-supported CW website.
CW's owners hope that by striking deals with such major players as Netflix and Hulu, the network that launched in 2006 eventually will become profitable.
Hulu Plus would be the only online subscription service to carry current episodes of nine of CW's shows, starting in the coming weeks. The most recent episodes of its prime-time series would be made available to subscribers the day after the television broadcast.
Meanwhile, the free, ad-supported Hulu service will offer the episodes eight days after they air on the network — a pattern similar to what CW had been using for its own website. Programs will continue to be streamed on the network's website.
News Corp.'s Fox adopted a similar approach with current episodes of its broadcast shows, including "Glee" and "New Girl."