Awaiting a verdict

The ruling on Twentieth Television's experimental regional rollout of court show Texas Justice looks positive. After getting picked up last week by two additional top-20 stations, Fox-owned WTVT-TV Tampa, Fla., and KSAZ-TV Phoenix, the court show is getting closer to a national launch.

"I would say yes," answers the studio's chief Bob Cook, regarding the possible scenario of New York and Los Angeles stations' soon buying the show, hosted by Texan lawyer Larry Joe Doherty. "It's still a little early to tell, but, at least at this point, we are very encouraged."

He points out that, for the most recent ratings period, Texas Justice, which initially launched on six Fox O&Os on March 26, averaged a 3.5/11 Nielsen score on the Fox stations. That is an improvement from the 3.0/10 those stations' time periods were previously delivering. Counting WTVT-TV and KSAZ-TV, Texas Justice now runs on nine different outlets, all based in the South and Southwest.

Skeptics say the show is unproven because Texas Justice has so far just landed on Twentieth sister outlets, more or less obliged to take it. But Cook says, "We didn't force-feed the show. If they weren't interested in taking it or didn't have the appropriate time period to showcase the program properly, we didn't do it."

Stations that are on board with the show should be happy, because they received it without a license fee and are retaining all the barter advertising.

"The profitability factor for them is extraordinary," says Cook, who has explained in the past that Twentieth can offer such benefits because the show is efficiently produced by an already in-place production staff at KRIV-TV Houston. This way, it's unnecessary to shell out high startup fees, which is considered the norm when launching new shows.

But in addition to financial incentives, stations are attracted to the show because Doherty is "a character," explains Cook. "The reason that this is working, when most of these court shows have a lot of similarities, is Larry Joe. It's definitely Texas justice."