Hulu acquires rights to ‘CSI’ in first-of-its-kind deal for the CBS drama

Jorja Fox, Ted Danson
Jorja Fox and Ted Danson in a scene from “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
(Monty Brinton / CBS)

Could “CSI: Hulu” be the next installment in the storied franchise? Don’t count on it. But “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” is looking to bring its grisly crime-solving to the streaming site.

Hulu has acquired the exclusive subscription video-on-demand rights to the popular CBS crime drama. The multiyear pact stands as the first such licensing agreement for the veteran series.

Episodes from all complete past seasons, totaling more than 300 hours of programming, will be available for streaming on Hulu with a Plus subscription (which costs $7.99 per month) beginning in early April.

The CBS-owned drama recently wrapped its 15th (and suspected final) season. Those episodes, as well as episodes from subsequent seasons should the series be renewed, will be added to the library sometime after each season airs.


Despite lower ratings as it has aged -- its two-hour season finale last Sunday brought in 7.1 million viewers -- and high production cost, “CSI” has been a moneymaker for CBS via traditional off-network syndication deals and its international reach.

The new deal comes just as the franchise is set to launch its latest iteration, “CSI: Cyber,” on March 4 at 10 p.m. EST/PST.  

“CSI’s” foster home with Hulu deepens the relationship between the streaming site and CBS, which is the only major broadcaster that is not an  equity holder in the streaming service. Hulu’s media owners include News Corp. (parent of Fox), Walt Disney Co. (parent of ABC) and Comcast (parent of NBC).

CBS, wanting to safeguard the digital distribution of its shows, had long been the only Hulu holdout among the big broadcast networks. Though it succumbed to offering past shows for inclusion to Hulu’s library, its iciness toward the idea of making previous seasons of existing series available online on other services has only recently thawed -- with “The Good Wife” leading the charge in the fall of 2013.


Craig Erwich, senior vice president and head of content at Hulu, spoke about the continued friendship-building the “CSI” deal signaled:  “This deal not only represents a huge growth in our offering of premium content, but it also represents an expansion in our partnership with CBS. We look forward to working with CBS to continue making some of the best shows on television available for viewers to stream on more screens in the future.”

Scott Koondel, chief corporate licensing officer for CBS Corp, said in a statement: “This agreement and previous deals with our partners at Hulu further validates how well CBS procedural dramas perform on subscription services.”

Hulu’s other recent CBS acquisition, the Sherlock Holmes-based drama “Elementary,” will see episodes of past seasons hit the streaming site soon after its third season concludes this year. 

Even with the additions, the selection of current CBS series available on Hulu remains small, and next-day access to new episodes is not an option. At the same time, CBS has been trying to make its own inroads at appealing to cord-cutters looking for instant (and near instant) access with its own Hulu-esque service.

In October 2014, it launched an la carte subscription service, CBS All Access, for $5.99 per month -- giving users the ability to stream live television and access on-demand shows such as “NCIS” and “The Good Wife” from the 14 stations it owns.

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