Why Broadcast TV Is Betting Big on Franchises Like 'NCIS,' 'Law & Order' and 'CSI'

Ratings: ‘The Resident’ and ‘Big Sky’ Lead Night of 6 Season Finales


Why Broadcast TV Is Betting Big on Franchises Like ‘NCIS,’ ‘Law & Order’ and ‘CSI’

“If you look across the landscape, especially on broadcast TV, it’s very clear what’s working,” CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl tells TheWrap

During WarnerMedia’s upfront presentation on Wednesday, ad sales chief JP Colaco proclaimed that “IP is the new primetime.” Whether he meant to, he just described the programming strategy for virtually all of broadcast TV next fall.

All told, next season will feature three different versions each of “NCIS,” “FBI” and “Law & Order” on CBS and NBC. This includes a new spinoff of each franchise with “NCIS: Hawai’i,” “FBI: International” and “Law & Order: For the Defense.” For “Law & Order,” it will be the second straight season with a spinoff debut following “Organized Crime” this year. All these go along with NBC’s well-established “One Chicago” night of series set in the Windy City.

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If that’s not enough, CBS is bringing back its original franchise juggernaut in “CSI,” while ABC has a new reboot of the classic coming-of-age series “The Wonder Years.” “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf alone will account for a whopping nine hours of programming — on three consecutive nights. NBC’s “Law & Order” night on Thursdays come at the expense of comedies, all of which are being held until midseason.

“If you look across the landscape, especially on broadcast TV, it’s very clear what’s working,” CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl told TheWrap. “And these franchises work on multiple levels. They still draw a very consistent live audience, which is terrific for our network sales team. They get excellent delayed viewing, which kind of indicates the audience loyalty and engagement. And then they all stream pretty well as well. So it ends up becoming kind of a win-win-win.”

While it may lead to groans that the broadcast TV industry is out of any new ideas— to be fair, plenty of new series that are not based on existing IP are coming next season — one really can’t fault network brass. As Kahl said, it’s hard to argue with the success rate.

For CBS, both returning “NCIS” series — “NCIS: New Orleans” is ending after 7 seasons — and the two “FBI” shows are among CBS’ top 10 most-watched primetime series. CBS claimed its 13th straight victory among total viewers this season although the demo numbers aren’t as impressive. If it wasn’t for “The Equalizer” getting a post Super Bowl-bump for its series premiere, “NCIS” would have been CBS’ top performing series.

Over on NBC, “Law & Order” didn’t make it past 20 seasons because it was unpopular. Chris Meloni’s long-awaited return to the series as Elliot Stabler this season drew the show’s best viewership since 2016. The network’s Wednesday-night lineup of “Chicago Med,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD” is coming off three years of leading that night among total viewers.

When “CSI” went off the air in 2015, it was CBS” longest-running TV franchise until “NCIS” surpassed it a few years ago. Like “NCIS,” it also spawned three spinoffs: “CSI: Miami” which starred David Caruso, the Gary Sinease-led “CSI: NY” and the short-lived “CSI: Cyber,” which featured Patricia Arquette.

The new “CSI: Vegas” is considered a sequel series to the original version, with William Peterson, Jorja Fox and Wallace Langham all returning.

Kahl lauded “CSI” as one of those network TV series that changed its genre. It’s first seven seasons averaged more than 20 million viewers and it was among the top 10 most-viewed primetime series over its first nine.

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