Why CBS' NCIS And FBI Are Airing Full Hawai'i And International Scenes During Commercial Breaks

Torres and Knight in the office on NCIS
(Image credit: CBS)

With TV audiences gradually shifting away from linear broadcasts and adhering to streaming services for their primetime content, networks like CBS are enduring a steepening uphill climb while still having to find ways to maintain steady viewerships. The most recent big swing taken by one of the Big Four is CBS' unexpected strategy in which hit shows like NCIS and FBI are promoting their same-night spinoffs by airing full NCIS: Hawai'i and FBI: International scenes during commercial breaks, as opposed to sticking solely with traditional teasery spots.

Understandably, some diehard CBS viewers were taken aback by the new promotional push in recent weeks, with some heading to Twitter to voice their confusion, as many incorrectly assumed that they’d missed the ends of NCIS and/or FBI upon looking up to see spinoff scenes playing out in full. And those kinds of audience shake-ups are reportedly what network execs are trying to spark with this most recent gameplan. 

According to TVLine, an insider source at CBS has claimed that execs are trying to figure out ways to get audiences back to being more engaged with actually looking at their TV screens, as opposed to constantly looking down at their phones and other mobile devices. At this point, with so much content across television and streaming, on top of distractions happening off the screen altogether, it’s becoming more and more necessary for traditional networks to constantly introduce new tactics to keep viewers engaged. And it’s all the more difficult when said dramas changed nights for the new season and then bid big and controversial farewells to their main stars, even when banging guest stars join the fray later

In this case, it was apparently believed that airing upcoming scenes from NCIS: Hawai'i and FBI: International during their respective flagship series was a good way to draw attention to the main screen. For better or worse, those who have noticed have largely shared confused and fairly negative opinions, with the one below, as shared on Twitter, technically serving as one of the more positive reactions:

They've been doing it on this show for weeks. It's a little jarring, but I get what they're trying to do.

But even if everyone who noticed has something harsh to say about it, it’s still a big sign that CBS’ strategy may be working. Although it does seem a little tricky if the main goal is getting people to look up from their tablets, only for them to immediately look down again in order to post about the NCIS: Hawai'i or FBI: International. Is that really a full win?

However it goes, it’s rather hard for regular schmoes like myself to conclude how well the full-scene adverts are working, at least without any massive upticks in spinoff ratings and viewership totals. To date, both NCIS: Hawai'i and FBI: International are doing well respectively in their time slots, though both earn 1-2 million fewer viewers than the franchise motherships, and also earn lower 18-49 demo ratings. Still, CBS has already ordered up full seasons for both spinoffs, so fans don’t need to worry about them facing early cancellations in the near future.

Expect some more mild schedule shake-ups going forward, though, with NCIS and NCIS: Hawai'i air repeats until new episodes arrive on Monday, September 29, starting at 9:00 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, FBI and FBI: International have new episodes set for Tuesday, November 16, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET, but then all three FBI series are taking two weeks off before returning on December 7. Be sure to check out all the remaining 2021 Fall TV premieres with our handy schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.