Touchstone seeking exit from Eye deal

Studio wants out of CBS actioner 'C.S.I.'

In a move some believe to be the inevitable product of vertical integration, Touchstone Television is looking to bail out of its commitment to produce the upcoming CBS actioner “C.S.I.”

Disney-owned studio, which falls under the control of the ABC Entertainment Television Group, has notified Eye execs that it doesn’t believe producing the show makes financial sense. As a result, CBS and Touchstone have both begun conversations with other studios about coming on board as a financial partner on the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced skein.

While Touchstone insiders say the studio may still end up associated with “C.S.I.,” Eye execs are said to be fuming over Touchstone’s attempt to ditch the show after initially accepting CBS’ 13-episode order in May. Web insiders said the move makes it highly unlikely CBS will partner with Touchstone again anytime in the near future.

Still, CBS, which has a financial stake in “C.S.I.,” remains “fully committed” to the show, according to a spokesman. Indeed, one Eye insider said the web will produce the skein itself if it has to; sister studio Paramount Network Television has also been approached about taking on a role in “C.S.I.”

According to industry insiders, Touchstone’s attempt to get out of producing “C.S.I.” was prompted by the studio’s inability to generate sufficient international sales revenue for the skein. After crunching the numbers, Disney execs concluded the studio would simply lose too much money on the show. Such losses on a non-ABC program were deemed unacceptable by top Disney brass, sources said.

Eye insiders said such thinking confirms their fears that Touchstone’s only real mandate, since being folded into ABC last year, is to produce hit programs for the Alphabet web.

All Alphabet

If it ditches “C.S.I.,” Touchstone will see all of its new 2000-01 programs on ABC. The studio continues to produce “Felicity” and “Popular” for the WB and “Daddio” for NBC.

A Touchstone spokesman said the studio “does not negotiate our business matters in the media.”