NCIS dominated its Tuesday night time slot for 18 years. So why is CBS messing with such success by moving the show?
When the network announced its new 2021-22 schedule, the big news was how CBS was packaging its big franchises. Tuesday nights will be designated for the FBI shows. The network turned over Tuesday to Dick Wolf’s three creations — FBI, FBI: Most Wanted and the newest, FBI: International.
Ordinarily, NCIS would fill the Tuesday night, 8 p.m. Eastern slot. But the network is going with Wolf, who gave NBC the iconic show Law & Order and all its spinoffs.
We must remember that NCIS, with Mark Harmon as its star, was the most-watched scripted drama on television this past season. Maybe the night won’t matter, right?
“I look at it as a forward-looking move,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl told The Hollywood Reporter. “Putting franchises together as we’re doing with FBI is certainly one way people enjoy watching TV these days, especially linear TV. It works, and it’s not new to us because we’ve used our franchises to launch other franchises over the years.
“So, this move of NCIS to Monday lets us take a night that was doing OK, but now kind of supercharge it. Dropping the No. 1 scripted show on TV in the middle of a Monday night makes it an extremely strong night, and it gives us a chance to launch another piece of the franchise in NCIS: Hawai’i.”
CBS Is Hoping the NCIS Move to Mondays Will Help New Spinoff
Yes, CBS is using big dog NCIS to launch its newest spinoff, NCIS: Hawai’i. It stars Vanessa Lachey, who will play the franchise’s first special agent in charge.
But here’s why Kahl’s explanation may be wishful thinking. Want to know what will be butting heads with NCIS? That would be Monday Night Football on ESPN. Sure, NCIS is entering its 19th season. But MNF has been on air since 1970. Although it’s shifted from ABC to ESPN, it’s a Monday night tradition. In fact, it’s a general rule that football will dominate. The two shows that beat NCIS in the ratings in 2020-21 were Sunday Night Football on NBC and Fox’s Thursday Night Football.
The 2020 season finale of MNF — Buffalo versus New England — drew an audience of 14.45 million. It was simulcast on both ESPN and ABC. It proved to be the most-watched Monday night finale since 2016. SportsMediaWatch reported that MNF finished the season with six-straight games of increased viewership. Two of the six were simulcast on two networks.
Meanwhile, NCIS finished with an average of 12.54 million in its Tuesday night slot. NCIS: Los Angeles is the second most popular show in the franchise. In its Sunday night slot, that show averaged 7.69 million viewers and finished No. 24 in the country. It’s probably a good example of what football can do to a drama show.
Plus, NCIS won’t have Harmon as its shining, steady star. Reports indicate that Leroy Jethro Gibbs will appear in very few episodes in season 19, possibly a number in the low single digits.