Entertainment Studios Offers ‘America’s Court’

Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios is launching new court strip America’s Court with Judge Ross for broadcast and cable syndication next fall, the company said Tuesday. The half-hour show will be sold in one-hour blocks.

The show, which is shot in high definition, is being pitched to TV stations now. It also will air on one or two of Entertainment Studios’ six HD cable channels, which began airing on Verizon’s FiOs network last September.

After 17 years in business, America’s Court is the 19th program from Entertainment Studios. The company sells its national advertising time in daily and weekly blocks, and each block runs in every Entertainment Studios show. That block system allows the company to cume its ratings, selling national ads at a higher rate than if advertising was sold in each show individually. Allen says some 25 million people watch his shows each week.

“We are the Wal-Mart of television,” says Allen. “We produce our shows efficiently and we keep our costs down. In this economy, when people want efficiency, our advertising inventory is sold out. We’re the value player.”

Allen says that because America’s Court is guaranteed a run on Entertainment Studios’ cable networks, it’s a firm go for 2010. Allen is looking to place America’s Court in afternoon slots on traditional affiliates, so it probably won’t be included in that block advertising system.

“We’re not playing this for traditional 85% coverage among TV stations. We may only get two markets and we’re fine with that. We’ve got a substantial amount of capital from our deal with Verizon,” says Allen, who soon expects to get further distribution for his six HD networks: ES.TV, Pets.TV, Recipe.TV, Cars.TV, MyDestination.TV and Comedy.TV.

America’s Court features Kevin A. Ross, 46, who has been a judge, prosecutor and media personality in Southern California. After graduating from Atlanta’s Morehouse College, the Los Angeles native returned to his home city to intern for the LA County District Attorney’s office in Compton. He became a prosecutor working against the area’s prolific gangs.

During that time, Ross made a high profile but ultimately unsuccessful run for LA City Council. He parlayed that into a brief radio career, hosting “The People’s Connection” on radio station 109.3 KACE. He was later given his own show on a Disney-owned talk radio station. When that failed to garner much audience, he was moved over to KABC Talk Radio 790, where he hosted “Keeping It Real with Kevin Ross,” until 1999. He then ran for and won a seat as a Municipal Court judge, making him the youngest elected judge in California at the time. He later was elevated to Superior Court judge.

He held that position until 2005 when the California Commission on Judicial Performance removed him from the bench for “judicial misconduct” after Ross taped a pilot for Endemol and Tribune Entertainment called Mobile Court. Neither that show nor another pilot Ross taped for Twentieth Television was picked up.

Since then, Ross has been building his own digital media consultancy, BAAS Media Group, and he has his own Internet radio show on Blogtalkradio. He’s also appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, BET and NPR.

Allen says he met Ross when Ross came to him to talk about Internet radio, and Allen ended up offering him a court show in the room. Three weeks later, 14 episodes had been shot and one week later, Allen announced that the show would launch in fall 2010.

“This is the next generation of court shows,” says Allen. “Judge Ross is young, fresh, bold, brilliant, funny, tough and always fair.”

Allen says that while other studios are exiting the court genre, Entertainment Studios can make court work because it can produce shows so much more efficiently than the large studios.

“We built our company on the philosophy that we zig when others zag,” says Allen. “We believe court’s a great business and we think the studios oversaturated it. It left a huge void for people who have a good appetite for court. If we get the right stations and the right time periods, we will build this franchise for the next 20 years.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997 - September 2002.