Judge Judy Lobbies CBS for Prime Time

Judge Judy’s Judith Sheindlin makes a bundle already, and next year she’s slated for a $5 million bump that will give her $30 million-$35 million a year. A nice reward for presiding over the longest-running, most profitable and top-rated court show in the lucrative daytime genre.

But Sheindlin is looking for something more.

For the past few years, says the feisty syndicated TV jurist, she has been fighting a losing battle with Viacom for a slate of prime time Judge Judy specials on CBS, which operates under the same corporate umbrella as the show’s syndicator, Paramount Domestic Television.

Perhaps inspired by the occasional prime time editions of Entertainment Tonight and Dr. Phil aired on CBS by synergy-minded Viacom, Sheindlin envisions four or five nighttime shows per year, possibly with bigger payouts and more-emotional cases than those of the small-claims variety that air during the day.

“It would seem to me common sense to say if we expand this audience, it could only help our franchise,” Sheindlin says. “Now, to that end, I have made that suggestion to my bosses over at CBS and Viacom, and so far they have been unreceptive.”

But Viacom Co-President Leslie Moonves, whose empire encompasses CBS and Paramount’s TV operations, is hardly in contempt of Judge Judy’s court.

Moonves regards Sheindlin as a prized asset, and he has offered her tokens of his appreciation beyond the giant paychecks. Yet the incentives just aren’t quite in the same league with a Dr. Phil special.
This spring, Sheindlin was given an executive-producing credit for a comedy project in development—one that failed, alas, to win a pilot order from CBS.