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Fox Stations Group Rules in Favor of Alex

The verdict is in, and it's a favorable one for Judge Alex: The Fox Television Stations Group has renewed the first-run court show for a second season.

While most of the hype surrounding the new syndication season has centered on the battle between Martha and The Tyra Banks Show, they're essentially fighting for second place in overall households among new first-run shows.

Since premiering Sept. 12, Alex—hosted by Alex Ferrer—has consistently led the trio of first-run shows that premiered this year. Partially buoyed by double runs in several markets, Alex earned a 2.1, ahead of both Martha (1.7) and Tyra (1.5) in the national household ratings for the week ended Oct. 9.

“The numbers out of the box were respectable, and the vote of confidence from the stations this early was quite nice,” says Twentieth Television President and COO Bob Cook.

Renewals for Alex next year are at 87%. In addition to the Fox stations, the show will be back on Viacom stations, including WFOR Miami; Sinclair stations, including WPGH Pittsburgh; Tribune stations, including KWBP Portland, Ore.; LIN stations, including WNDY Indianapolis; Raycom stations, including WXIX Cincinnati; and Cox stations, including KTVU San Francisco.

Cook also says he hopes to leverage Twentieth's upcoming launch of Geraldo at Large by having Ferrer appear on Geraldo Rivera's new syndicated show.

“If Geraldo wanted a legal expert, here is a guy who has been a cop, a lawyer and a circuit-court judge, so he is quite an authority,” Cook says. “If there is a natural fit there, which I'm sure from time to time there will be, we'll call upon him for that.”

And while there are already seven syndicated court shows on the air, Alex may find an even more cluttered marketplace when it returns next year. Word is Twentieth, Paramount, Warner Bros., Sony and Buena Vista all have court shows in the works for 2006.

“When you know the appetite is strong, you want to strike while the iron is hot,” says Cook. “You never know when it's too many until the guys at the bottom are dividing up such small ratings that they start to fall away. It's a natural attrition.”

For now, the billion-dollar genre shows no signs of weakening. Judy Sheindlin recently received a four-year deal for Judge Judy, which takes her through the 2009-10 season at an estimated $30 million-$35 million annually. Currently in its 10th season, the Paramount Domestic Television program has been the top-rated court show since its debut, a streak of 473 consecutive weeks.

While Judy rules the bench bunch, she's not the only jurist winning viewers. All six returning syndicated court shows, in fact, are up year-over-year.