The Five Spot: Dan Abrams


All-time favorite show?Happy Days

Favorite app? Lyft or Barry’s Bootcamp

Destination on your bucket list? An African safari, but it isn’t happening any time soon.

Book on your nightstand? Re-reading David McCullough’s John Adams in preparation for a book tour.

Memorable meal? I’m a big wine person and there is a terrific new restaurant in Manhattan called Pasta Eater. They don’t have a liquor license, so I bought an Ornellaia and a Saxum and had an amazing Italian pasta dinner.

Dan Abrams has become a one-man media conglomerate.

The son of famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, he’s moved from reporting on legal issues on Court TV to launching web businesses including Mediaite, producing shows such as the top-rated Live PD and Court Cam on A&E and building the Law & Crime network. He also hosts a daily show on Sirius XM, and he’s the chief legal correspondent for ABC News, which kept him busy during the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

In March, Abrams will publish John Adams Under Fire: The Founding Father’s Fight for Justice in The Boston Massacre Trial.

Working out helps keep Abrams sane. “But when things heat up on my books, I have basically no free time beyond spending time with my son Everett,” he said.

He spoke with B+C business editor Jon Lafayette.

For a lawyer turned TV-news guy, you’ve been very entrepreneurial. What spurred the urge to launch businesses?

I have always been as, or more, interested in the business side of media than the on-air side. When I was on air at MSNBC, I made a pitch to leave my show and run the network. It worked. I eventually realized what I really wanted to do wasn’t to run an arm of NBC News but to start my own media businesses. Media right now is the Wild West with lots of available real estate, so it’s incredibly exciting and fun.

What’s surprised you about the popularity ofLive PD?

I could not have predicted that it would often be the No. 1 show on cable on Friday and Saturday nights. What has been most surprising (and rewarding) about it has been how invested the audience is in the show. #LivePDNation, as we call the community, is so passionate about every detail of the show. They sometimes see little things the police miss, help catch wanted fugitives or find the missing children we highlight on the show.

How many other live or real-life shows —Live Rescue,Court Cam— do you think there’s an appetite for?

People don’t really want fake, scripted reality shows anymore. They want real reality and we can provide that. A lot of it. The genre is really hot and we are now producing programs for five other networks/platforms.

Will digital and streaming technology sustain the type of legal networks like the one where you got your start, Court TV?

I started Law & Crime based on my experience at Court TV in the ’90s, but it’s even more relevant today because media has become so fractured. Law & Crime’s live trial coverage is a niche audience but fortunately it’s a pretty big niche.

Mediaite is in the journalism criticism business. How could the news do a better job covering stories like the impeachment?

I wish media coverage would more often take a step back and present more context and analysis, even if it’s something we didn’t just learn about today. Some do try to do this, but we need to remember that most people aren’t following every detail of ongoing stories. Just because it’s not the first time something has occurred, that doesn’t mean that we should become numb to its significance.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.