Sinclair hires “CSI” creator to develop programming

Anthony Zuiker to develop programming for Sinclair 

In an unusual deal, Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcasting has struck a deal with a writer who helped develop the CSI franchise.

The person’s name is Anthony E. Zuiker, and he plans to work with Sinclair to develop programming including but not limited to game shows, docuseries, and talk shows. Zuiker is working with Sinclair’s chief innovation officer, Scott Ehrlich.

The reason behind the hire is to develop programming not only for its own stations, but also for others – licensing material from its 150+ stations nationwide to outside suppliers as product in the first-run and off-network syndication arenas are drying up as the major Hollywood studios are putting more emphasis onto streaming. This comes as more and more station groups are producing their own programming and relying more on independent distributors similar to what we saw in the 1970s, when players such as Westinghouse (also known as Group W) produced programming not only for their own local stations, but also for national syndication such as PM/Evening Magazine and Hour Magazine. 

As first-run syndication became more profitable in the 1980s, studios such as Paramount, Disney, and MCA entered the game, and wound up buying these independent producers in the 1990s especially after the financial interest and syndication rules expired, letting the broadcast networks into the syndication business. One casualty was Group W themselves, whose parent company merged with CBS in 1996. 

“We’ve got a pipeline problem,” Zuiker told Variety. “Talk shows and game shows have been on our air as long as we’ve existed. But we’re not getting them anymore from our old suppliers.”

While Zuiker is developing programming for Sinclair, he remains in the writers’ room for CSI: Las Vegas, a sequel to the original 2000-15 series, which spawned other CSI shows set in Hawaii, New York, and a short-lived series, CSI: Cyber based in Washington, D.C. A Las Vegas native (the original CSI and its sequel are set in Sin City), Zuiker helped create CSI with Jerry Bruckeimer, who developed the series. The franchise has been a global hit for CBS and parent company Paramount Global, but it has also spawned numerous procedural copycats – especially on its own network, often criticized and referred to as “paint-by-numbers” crime dramas. On the other hand, such programming has been successful and profitable in syndication and on cable networks. 

So in essence, the best way to handle the programming crunch is to look to the past and see what Westinghouse/Group W did, and for local stations, this is basically back to the future. After all, you can’t fill every slot with news.

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2 thoughts on “Sinclair hires “CSI” creator to develop programming

    • This was another interesting article. Nice to see a station group making more first run programming for its own stations and for possible syndication to other stations. I remember the Group W shows mentioned: PM Magazine and Hour Magazine. Both were not bad programs. PM Magazine was able to use local hosts during its run on WFLD-TV Channel 32. Also, I so strongly agree with the idea that local stations cannot fill every slot with news! Nothing better could have been said. I for one miss the days when more local entertainment shows and good syndicated product filled time periods on weekdays and weekends. Now we get mostly paid programming on WGN-TV Channel 9 on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and even in the early evening slots on those two days.

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