Court TV Brands a Split Decision

Court TV will create separate brands for its daytime and primetime programming to better differentiate between its news and entertainment content, executives said during an upfront presentation here last Tuesday.

Later this spring or early summer, the network will label its daytime court coverage Court TV News, while tagging the lineup of primetime forensic-based and entertainment programming as “Seriously Entertaining,” president and chief operating officer Art Bell said.


As part of the rebranding, Court also will unveil new logos for both dayparts as well as a major marketing campaign.

Bell said the new branding effort will tell advertisers and consumers the network serves a broad spectrum of interests and needs throughout the day.

“This is the next logical step in our evolution as the brand leader in coverage of all aspects of our system of justice,” Bell said.

Court TV chairman and CEO Henry Schleiff said this was not a prelude to splitting Court TV into two separate networks. Court will not ask Nielsen Media Research to split ratings coverage of Court TV into two distinct networks, a la Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite or Cartoon Network and its “Adult Swim” late-night block.

To support the new primetime initiative, Court will launch several new entertainment-based shows aimed at younger viewers.

General manager of programming and marketing Marc Juris said the new shows — along with returning hits such as Forensic Files, Psychic Detectives and Masterminds and more issue-oriented movies such as Exonerated and the upcoming Witness Protection — and Military Justice will reflect a diversity of content that ranges from serious programming to fun fare.

Court TV is also hoping the new shows will continue to drive viewership, particularly within younger demographic groups.

Court TV finished the first quarter with a 0.9 prime time rating, up 13% from the same period in 2004. It also increased its adults ages 18 to 49 viewership by 8% from the period of Dec. 24, 2004 to March 27. 2005, compared with 2003-04.

New shows on tap include L.A. Forensics, featuring cases from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Scientific Investigation Division; Under Investigation, in which Court will team with NBC News to take a close look at headline-making, unsolved cases; and Five Days, which follows an elite group of investigators that try to solve a case in less than a week.

Juris said the network will also dip its toe in the voyeur-based reality series genre with shows including Parco PI, following a dysfunctional family of New York City private eyes; and Las Vegas Law, tracking Sin City attorney Buck Buchanan and his unusual clients.


Other reality skeins include High Stakes With Ben Mezrich, chronicling the best-selling author’s investigations into the underground world of young, over-achieving millionaires and wannabes; Casino Takedown, about former card-counters and con-men who test casino security systems, and The Smoking Gun, an offshoot of Court TV’s own investigative Web site.

Schleiff said his network isn’t abandoning its forensic and investigation roots.

The network will also launch later this year a new public service initiative In Pursuit of Justice, including a series of original specials designed to spur awareness of important judicial and social issues.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.