Court TV's Ruling: A More Investigative Bent

Moving away from its courtroom-coverage roots, Court TV will invest $160 million over the next two years to develop original shows that focus on the investigative aspects of law enforcement.

Buoyed by the success of Forensic Files, the network will launch four new series focused on criminal investigations, Court TV chairman and CEO Henry Schleiff said.

As part of its repositioning, the network next month will also introduce a new tagline, "Join the Investigation," supported by a $16 million marketing campaign.

Schleiff said Court TV's subscriber growth — from 31 million homes in 1999 to more than 70 million subscribers today — has allowed it to grow into a service that offers more original programming and extends its subject reach well beyond the live coverage of trials.

"We've established ourselves through our daytime coverage of trials," Schleiff said. "The next logical step in the network's evolution is our move toward more investigative programming, where there is an increased interest and fascination among viewers."

The genre — made popular through such broadcast-TV hits as CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, as well as high-grossing theatrical films like Panic Room
and Training Day — also resonates well with Court TV's target audience of 25-to-54-year-old women, according to Schleiff.

"The investigative programming environment is smart, it's compelling and it's popular," Schleiff said. "It's something that our advertisers really value because it's distinct and different, while continuing to reach our core demographic of women and adults 25-54."

New original shows slated to launch next season include I Detective, an interactive show that will afford viewers the opportunity to solve crimes through a series of multiple-choice questions; and The Elite, which follows the lives of employees within the nation's top law-enforcement organizations.

Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman
trails the exploits of criminal profiler Hinman, while Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice— first announced last January at the Television Critics Association Tour — will take a look at the darker criminal side of high society.

The network will also produce two new original movies for the 2002-03 season —Political Asylum
and The Interrogation of Michael Cowe — as well as specials Las Vegas Investigators, Psychic Detectives
and Incriminating Evidence.

Also on tap: The RFK Awards: In Pursuit of Justice, a documentary featuring people honored by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial for their work on human rights and justice endeavors; and a look at hate crimes hosted by Al Roker of NBC's Today.

Schleiff hopes the new programming slate will allow the network to continue its recent ratings momentum. Court TV averaged a 0.8 primetime household rating during the first quarter, a 33 percent gain over the same period in 2001, according to Nielsen Media Research.

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.