License To Thrill

CSI is solid gold performer in late-night and weekends

CSI is a gold mine. Everywhere CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin­offs play—network prime time or cable—the show boosts the fortunes of its distributor.

And when CSI premiered in weekend broad­cast syndication on Sept. 13, its 4.3 AA national household rating made it the highest-rated weekend hour to premiere in seven years. After six weeks on the air, the show has jumped 23% to a 5.3 average, making it the fifth-highest-rated syndicated show.

In syndication, the show averages a respectable $75,000 per 30-second spot, insiders estimate.

“Everywhere it goes and no matter what platform it plays on, viewers gravitate toward it,” says Moira Coffey, senior vice president, research, King World Productions.

To enhance CSI ratings in syndication, King World cleared the show primarily in late-fringe time slots after local news. But in several top markets, it airs in weekend prime time on UPN stations—including WSBK Boston, WUPA Atlanta and WKMB Detroit—where it's averaging 5.0 and 6.0 ratings, says Joe DiSalvo, president, domestic television sales, for King World Productions. He attributes CSI's numbers, in part, to smart scheduling.

“It's not going to be on in the afternoon, where it might get preempted by sports,” he says. “What's most important to us is that it remains consistent.”

(Success is relative: In 1997, Twentieth's The X-Files hit weekend syndication with a huge 8.8, and Twentieth's NYPD Blue premiered with a 5.3. Since then, performances on weekends have decreased considerably: The genre's second- best show, Warner Bros.' The West Wing, is averaging a 1.9 season-to-date; it premiered in September 2003 with a 2.2 rating.)

Stations have the opportunity to run CSI in weekend syndication for only two years before the show goes to Spike, for $1.6 million an episode. It will be stripped seven days a week starting in September 2006.

At the same time, stations will get a two-year window to air CSI: Miami before it becomes a strip on A&E. Although King World has yet to sell it, a similar deal will eventually be created for CSI: NY.