How To Extend a Franchise
ANTHONY ZUIKER, executive producer, C.S.I., C.S.I.: Miami, and C.S.I.: New York
By Elizabeth Esfahani

(Business 2.0) – You created the hottest crime drama ever to hit the airwaves, then managed to reproduce its success not once, but twice—with all three of your series now among the top 10 shows on TV. How did you keep cranking out C.S.I.s without diluting the brand?

I think you have to know why you are doing it, and do it for the right reasons. Nothing was ever done in terms of greed from our end. We didn't want to capitalize on the success of one show and make a bad spinoff just to get a twofer.

The key was to make sure that we never lowered our standards. We were really worried about the spinoffs hurting C.S.I., because if one show isn't up to snuff, it feels like the whole franchise has lost its luster. So we looked at it as an opportunity to challenge ourselves—to do it again and make it fresh.

The thing I'm most proud of is that we didn't react to the competition. Some of the other crime shows have added labs and are doing more forensics, and there have been all kinds of knockoffs watering down the market, but we've held true. You need to evolve, but you don't need to evolve defensively. That's a classic mistake. — E.E.