Judge Maria Lopez Joining TV Bench

Sony Pictures Television (SPT) has secured clearances for Judge Maria Lopez in seven of the top 10 markets for a fall 2006 first-run start.

Lopez, Sony's second, half-hour court show,  has been licensed to stations covering more than 35% of the U.S. belonging to the Tribune, as well as Viacom and Weigel groups. 

Despite the Tribune clearances, the show remains separate from SPT’s first-run development pact with Tribune. 

Citing her “strong appeal to female and Hispanic viewers,” SPT Distribution President John Weiser said the Cuban-born Lopez has been cleared into court blocks in New York (WPIX), Chicago (WCIU), Philadelphia (KYW/WPSG), Boston (WBZ/WSBK), San Francisco (KBHK/KPIX), Dallas (KTVT/KTXA) and Atlanta (WUPA). 

Also at WKBD/WWJ Detroit, WTOG Tampa/St. Petersburg, WBFS/WFOR Miami, KDKA/WNPA Pittsburgh, WDJT/WMLW  Milwaukee, WTCN/WTVX West Palm Beach, Fl., and WGNT Norfolk, Va. 

Sony will pair Lopez with Judge Hatchett, providing cost efficiencies already enjoyed by Paramount (Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown), Twentieth Television (Divorce Court, Judge Alex) and Warner Bros. (People’s Court, Judge Mathis).

With Lopez the eighth court series either already airing or announced for syndication, the genre is well on its way to overtaking talk as the most popular daytime genre. Court shows can boast a 50% survival rate over the past decade versus just 25% for other categories.   

It remains popular among the studios, because it cost $400,000 per week to produce and distribute. That compares to more expensive categories like magazine shows, which can run as high as $1 million a week.With the exception of the top-rated Judge Judy, all the other court shows are now presided over by African-American or Hispanic judges, who have struck a chord with the daytime audience.

Seeking to take advantage of the fast-rising Latin population in the U.S., several other judge shows are in development at various studios for next fall, all of which are believed to feature judges of Hispanic origin. 

Lopez, the first female Hispanic judge appointed to the Massachusetts Superior Court, is described as outspoken, strict, compassionate and controversial. For example, in one of her sentencing decisions, she required that a men's locker room at Boston's Logan Airport be turned over to a female state trooper for an hour a day until equal facilities were built.