Dick Wolf Breaks New Ground With 3 Consecutive Nights On Broadcast TV Amid Drama Franchise Resurgence

After almost 45 years in the business, Dick Wolf has nothing to prove. He has television’s longest-running primetime live-action series with Law & Order: SVU. He is behind more successful broadcast drama franchises than anyone with Law & Order, Chicago and FBI. Yet, he has found another gear with a slew of new series orders over the past year, and he now hit a new milestone — a Dick Wolf franchise lineup on three consecutive nights across two broadcast networks.

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CBS just unveiled its fall 2021 schedule, which features an FBI Tuesday consisting of the mothership series, new addition FBI: International and returning FBI: Most Wanted.

For three seasons, NBC has had a One Chicago Wednesday night, which is is continuing. And next fall, the network is launching a Law & Order night on Thursday with Law & Order: For the Defense joining veteran Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crimes. (Greg Berlanti previously has produced three consecutive nights on the CW, which programs two hours a night, mostly with DC shows.)

Wolf is riding the wave of newfound demand for franchise crime procedurals, which never really went away but are now making a big comeback, especially at CBS and NBC, where Wolf has built his franchises.

“You have to objectively look at what is working on broadcast television, it is these kinds of shows, it is franchises,” CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl told Deadline as the network announced three new drama series for fall 2021, all new installments of hit franchises, NCIS, CSI and FBI. “In my mind, franchises hit the trifecta, they have terrific live viewing, they have significant delayed viewing and they also do very well on streaming.”

During NBC’s press call Friday morning unveiling the fall schedule, Frances Berwick, NBCU’s Chairman, Entertainment Networks, spoke of the company’s decision to “prioritize linear viewing,” going for shows “people tend to watch live” as well as “leaning to familiar things” with the two Dick Wolf franchise nights and the addition of two new Law & Order spinoffs, Organized Crime, which recently launched with a big SVU crossover, and the upcoming For the Defense.

Wolf’s vision for his drama franchises with integrated universes of characters who move seamlessly between shows helped One Chicago to excel in the ratings with frequent crossover events. The strategy has been so successful that it has now been adopted throughout the industry, including by ABC’s top two dramas, Grey’s Anatomy and its spinoff Station 19.

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