The CW goes after cord cutters with its own free, cross-platform streaming service

As the number of cord cutters in the U.S. continues to grow, The CW is doubling down on its own, subscription-free, over-the-top streaming service, which will now become the only way to watch in-season episodes of the network’s shows. The service will also expand across platforms, including support for Roku, Chromecast, AirPlay, Apple TV, Xbox, and Amazon Fire TV, in addition to iOS, Android, and the web.

Customers who click on The CW’s web banners and links touting the new streaming service are directed to a “Notify Me” page which will alert them when it becomes available. However, according to a CW Twitter post, the changes will go into effect next week.

Of course, The CW already made its content available for free streaming on the web and mobile, but the new service will reach the other platforms, as well as become the exclusive home to current episodes.

The service will also include trailers and other exclusive digital-only content, The CW says. And the app can alert users as to when their favorite shows are airing.

According to reports from earlier this year, The CW’s parent companies – it’s jointly owned by CBS and Time Warner – were working on a standalone streaming service that would offer access to all its programming for a low monthly fee. However, that has not yet come to pass.

Instead, the network forged a new deal with Netflix this summer, which makes Netflix the exclusive U.S. subscription service home to past seasons of The CW’s scripted shows. Netflix will receive the shows 8 days after their season finale – a big reduction from the 4 months it had to wait before, under its prior deal. The deal also led to The CW pulling its in-season content from Hulu, in favor of its own streaming service.

The changes would kick in starting with the 2016-2017 fall TV season, it was reported at the time, which is why The CW has begun to now heavily promote its standalone streaming service via its digital properties, including its website, and various social media accounts.

The ads tout the service as: “No Login. No Subscription. Just FREE.”


In other words, you don’t have to subscribe to a cable or satellite TV service and authenticate to use The CW’s app, nor do you have to pay a monthly fee. This means the service will be ad-supported but the network declined to discuss the costs per-ad or how many ads will be shown.

At present, The CW only provides access to the last 5 episodes for free, as it did on Hulu. This will continue, the network tells us – the only main difference is the expansion to the other platforms.

The network skews toward a younger demographic – primarily those aged 18-34. It used to be more aimed at young women viewers, but that has changed a bit in recent years thanks to investments in superhero shows like “The Flash,” “Arrow,” and “Supergirl,” in addition to more female-focused content like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin,” for example.

“Since we began providing free next-day streaming of our shows a couple of years ago, digital viewing adds about an additional 20% to our linear viewing audience, although that number can vary depending on the show,” a CW spokesperson tells TechCrunch. “Our most popular series last season digitally were ‘The Flash’ – which is also our highest rated series on air – and ‘Jane the Virgin,'” they added.

The move also comes at a time when parent company CBS is also experimenting with its own, standalone streaming offering. It that case, its over-the-top service CBS All Access is offering paid access to CBS fare, but the bigger draw is that it will be the only way for U.S. viewers watch the new “Star Trek” series. Unfortunately for CBS, “Star Trek’s” arrival is now being reported as delayed.