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In the clearest sign yet that The CW will live to fight another season, the network has given early renewals to a half-dozen existing series, including Superman drama “Smallville.”

The CW President Dawn Ostroff began telephoning executives at Warner Bros. Television and CBS Paramount Network Television about the decision Tuesday morning. The network could announce the news as early as this afternoon.

In addition to “Smallville,” the series renewed for next season are “Gossip Girl,” “90210,” “America’s Next Top Model” (cycles 13 and 14), “One Tree Hill” and “Supernatural.”

While the solid ratings for all six shows made pickups likely, the renewals were not all foregone conclusions.

In the case of “Smallville,” producer Warner Bros. Television had been negotiating with series star Tom Welling to return. The CW’s renewal indicates the studio was successful in those conversations.

There also had been a question of whether The CW itself would survive for another season. In recent months, however, it’s become increasingly clear that the network has moved to more solid ground.

The network has had a decent 2008-09 season, with the successful launch of “90210” and the strong pairing of “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill” on Monday nights. All three shows have posted double-digit Nielsen gains compared to their timeslot averages last season.

The CW also has had success building its brand as a destination for young female viewers.

With six tentpole series renewed for next season, there aren’t that many holes in The CW’s 2009-10 schedule left to be filled. What’s more, two projects currently in development—a reimagination of “Melrose Place” and the “Gossip Girl” prequel “Lily”—are very likely to land series orders for next season, making it even more difficult for new shows to get on the air.

Nonetheless, The CW has an active development slate beyond “Melrose” and “Lily.” Two buzzworthy projects in the works include “Vampire Diaries” and “Light Years.” The CW also just picked up drama “The Beautiful Life.”

Shows on the bubble at The CW include “Reaper,” “Privileged,” “The Game” and “Everybody Hates Chris.” The latter series, which has already filmed enough episodes for syndication, is considered a long shot to return.

It’s also unclear what direction The CW will move on Friday and Sunday nights next fall, although both nights could provide logical homes for new programming. It’s unlikely, however, that The CW will program a full night of first-run scripted fare on Sundays.

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May 2009

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