Why CBS Is Dropping NCIS: Hawai'i Scenes Into the Middle of NCIS

NCIS HAwaii Promos Interrupt

Have you recently looked up from your phone while waiting out an NCIS ad break, fearing that you missed the end of the episode because a scene from NCIS: Hawai’i is playing on your screen?

For those who have been watching NCIS and or FBI live this fall, the reaction to this new style of CBS promo is mixed. (And to those harrumphing, “Who sits through commercials anymore?!,” well, this fun article probably isn’t for you.)

When I tweeted this Monday about nearly a full NCIS: Hawai’i scene being dropped into an NCIS ad break (instead of a traditional, quick “Coming up next!” teaser), one viewer concurred, “It is very odd. I actually thought the feed was messed up the first time I saw one,” while another said, “I was so confused last week during FBI thinking my TV glitched and jumped into [FBI:] International.” A third tersely opined, “Not a fan. AT ALL.”

But at least one of my followers saw things from both sides, tweeting, “It’s a little jarring, but I get what they’re trying to do.”

What is CBS trying to do? Simply said, they want you to look up from your granddaughter’s TikTok (or whatever) and keep your eyes on the bigger screen in the room. In a crowded marketplace, it was explained to me by a CBS insider, “you’ve got to try new tricks to engage audiences.” The 10-second teaser spot that many of us grew up with and are used to “generally isn’t effective anymore,” I was told, “because people are busy, have phones in their laps….”

Meaning, if you, like I, have ever been startled to think that NCIS or FBI suddenly ended and the following program was already airing, and you in turn quickly redirected your attention to the TV, CBS’ work here is done. The promo department’s job is to let the audience know about the product (in this case, the new series NCIS: Hawai’i and FBI: International), get them interested and (in success) “get them to not turn the dial at the top of the hour,” says the CBS source.

Another new tactic that CBS is employing this fall is a promo campaign called “The Fight for Justice Never Sleeps,” which touts its 10 o’clock (and only its 10 o’clock) dramas. That effort stems from the fact that shows such as NCIS: Hawai’i, CSI: Vegas and Bull have improved viewership vs. their time slot predecessors (which, admittedly, got socked by a pandemic-depressed climate). Making the extra effort to hype 10 pm dramas can only benefit the local newscasts that follow and, in turn, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (which easily outdraws its ABC and NBC rivals in viewers, and nips at The Tonight Show in the demo).

What do you think of CBS airing “full” scenes of the program that follows during NCIS and FBI ad breaks?

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