The CW Cancels Austin-Made Walker

Show starring Jared Padalecki filmed locally for four seasons

Farewell, Cordell. Walker, the Austin-shot series starring Jared Padalecki, has been cancelled by the CW after four seasons. (Image courtesy of the CW)

In a blow to his fans and to the Austin film and TV industry, Jared Padalecki will be hanging up his signature white cowboy hat, with the news that the CW is canceling Walker.

The news was broken by Padalecki via Instagram, who wrote, "It is with a heavy heart that I share this news with you. Walker will not be airing on CW for a fifth season."

The reboot of Walker, Texas Ranger, the 1990s series starring Chuck Norris, Walker was Padalecki's follow-up to his blockbuster 15-season run for the network on Supernatural. Starring the Austin resident as the titular Cordell Walker, a Texas Ranger trying to put his life together as a recently-widowed single father, it debuted in 2021 and became an immediate smash, remaining the CW's highest-rated show throughout much of its run. It even launched a shortlived prequel spinoff, Walker: Independence.

It was also a huge boon to the Austin economy and its production ecosystem, employing hundreds of skilled craftspeople and actors, and leasing space at Austin Studios throughout its run. That was all down to Padalecki, who lobbied hard to have production take place in his home town.

However, rumors had been rampant for several weeks that the show was in peril. The issue was less the ratings (which had been slipping – but then, that's just the story of broadcast television) but the CW's shift from scripted shows to cheaper, unscripted and reality fodder to fill the schedule. In part, this was seen as a result of change of ownership. It was previously jointly owned by WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS, but in 2022 Nexstar MediaGroup took 75% ownership.

Under the new management, the CW changed, and the shift from scripted shows kicked in. By 2024, even though they were the network's biggest shows, Walker and the CW's other top-rated drama, All American, were known to be on the bubble. Cost was the main issue as, although Walker was known as a model of efficiency, the reported $500,000 per episode licensing fee paid by the CW to the producers at CBS fell far short of covering expenses. The news got worse last week when the CW announced its fall schedule, which included the final season of another backbone of its programming, Superman & Lois, but no sign of Walker in the listings.

Hopes for a last-minute reprieve began to fade on Friday, as the production began disassembling the sets at Austin Studios. There was still a little hope that they could be reassembled, but the presumption was that the show was done, and that was confirmed yesterday.

This leaves Austin Studios – the production facility owned and operated by the Austin Film Society in East Austin – down two major tenants, as the Walker exit coming less than two weeks after longterm client Rooster Teeth left after announcing it was shutting down in March. Both are finishing out their contracted leases, and studio management is already proactively seeking new tenants. However, they face a challenging environment, as networks increasingly follow the CW's lead in shifting to cheaper, unscripted shows, and those that are sticking with scripted series are moving production overseas (in part in search of reduced costs, in part hunting incentives, and partially, as one industry insider noted, to stick it to the unions after their successful contract negotiations over the last year).

While Walker may not have achieved the longevity of Padalecki's last series, it's still locally regarded as a minor miracle. Debuting during the pandemic, making it through an unprecedented round of strikes, and a change in network ownership, Walker's four season built up a loyal fanbase and kept many Austin TV professionals employed on a set that was known for its friendly mood and positive working environment. As Padalecki wrote, “It has been a unique honor to be a part of the cast and crew (and fandom!) that helped Walker tell the stories that we told. I will forever smile on the years I got to spend with the cast and crew and studio and network and fandom that made this all possible.”

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Walker, The CW, Jared Padalecki, CBS, WarnerMedia, NexStar, Austin Studios, Austin Film Society, Rooster Teeth

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