Exclusive: 'Judge Joe Brown' Star, CTD Explore Split

If an ongoing contract negotation
between CBS Television Distribution and Joe Brown, star of CTD's Judge Joe Brown, is not
resolved, syndication's second-highest rated court show might star a
different judge next fall, according to several sources. That's despite the
fact that the show is renewed on TV stations through the 2014-15 TV season.

In the face of declining
ratings, license fees and advertising revenues, CTD has told Brown that his salary will
be significantly cut. Brown hasn't re-upped to do the show under the new terms
for next fall, and is shopping it to other distributors, according to sources.
The show is scheduled to end production for the current season mid-March.
Meanwhile, CTD's sales people are proposing to stations to swap in another
judge this fall.

One of the judges CTD is considering, according to several sources, is Judge Geoffrey Gaither, a juvenile court judge in Marion County, Indiana. While TV station executives have seen tape featuring Gaither, he is not necessarily CTD's final selection should Brown not re-sign.

syndicators also noted that they've been getting calls from members of Brown's crew,
looking for new jobs.

Among the
distributors that Brown is considering is Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios,
with whom sources say Brown is in "advanced conversations to produce
new episodes of the show for fall." Entertainment Studios declined to
comment. Brown could not be reached at press time via calls to Judge
Joe Brown
's production office at Sunset-Bronson Studios.

Whether station groups will be
willing to keep the show on the air with another judge in Brown's place hasn't
been decided yet, but some station executives who requested anonymity told B&C they were less than
happy to be learning about this situation at the end of February when their
options for replacing the show are limited.

declined to comment on "on-going talent negotiations," according to a

Even with
all of this going on, there's still the possibility that Brown will end up
signing a new contract with CTD and returning to the air this fall as planned.

noted that there are significant advantages to sticking with CTD, even at a
lesser salary. Several syndication stars have had to take salary cuts in recent
years in the face of a fragmented daytime TV environment, and even The Oprah Winfrey Show faced
license-fee cuts by the time it went off the air in 2011.

In many markets, Judge Joe Brown is
paired with CTD's Judge Judy, by far syndication's number-one court
show. Judy still
brings in massive ratings, recently surpassing an 8.0, and often ranks as
daytime's highest-rated show. When Joe - or any court show - is
paired with Judy, it typically gets a ratings bump. Judy is
such a strong performer that Fox recently upgraded it to 4 p.m. in three markets -- WAGA Atlanta, WTXF Philadelphia and WTTG
Washington, D.C. - where Fox has found it performs well as a news lead-in.

Like many syndicated shows,
ratings forJudge Joe Brown have
been in decline over the past several years. In the February sweep so far
(through Feb. 17), the show is down 20% to a 2.4 live
plus same day rating from a 3.0 last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Furthermore, the per-episode rating that local
stations use to sell to
advertisers is actually lower than the nationally-reported
rating. Judge Joe Brown,
like Judge Judy, runs in one-hour
blocks of two original half-hours, and those double runs are added together for
the national rating.

example, on Fox's WWOR New York at 2 p.m., each half-hour
of Judge Joe Brown is averaging 1.0 rating/3 share in
households. That's down 33% from last year when the show aired at 2 p.m. on Fox's WNYW, and is less than half of the national rating. On
CBS's KCAL Los Angeles, each episode of the show, which airs at 11 a.m., averages a 1.1/4.

Accordingly, the show's
revenues have fallen significantly in recent years, and so have license fees,
with one station executive noting that "we gave [CTD] giant license fee
cuts" for the show in the last round of renewals.

CTD remains TV's largest
syndicator, with such hit shows in its arsenal as Entertainment TonightWheel of FortuneJeopardy! and Dr. Phil.
That gives CTD leverage in the marketplace from which Judge Joe Brown benefits.
Another syndicator, without those big shows in its portfolio, won't be able to
support Judge
Joe Brown
 in the same way.

Updated, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 at 11:10 a.m. PT

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. 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.