New, No-Fee Legal Network Launches

Byron Allen has a network rate-card offer he hopes will deliver a positive verdict.

Allen’s Entertainment Studios today (Dec. 10) will launch a new court- and legal-themed cable channel with no licensing fee for 10 years in return for full basic-tier carriage.

The no-fee offer is for Justice Central, which will air live courtroom coverage during daytime and episodes from syndicated court-based shows later in the day.

The network has a carriage agreement with AT&T U-verse for distribution to more than 4 million subscribers, Allen said. He expects current talks with operators to yield Justice Central more than 80 million basic subscribers within two years.

Allen also wants to launch more networks under the same terms.

“We’re going to help the MVPDs bring down their costs, be efficient on our end, and produce a first-class, world-class network and content with just the ad dollars,” Allen said, adding that the ad revenue will grow as the channel adds subscribers.

Justice Central sees an opportunity arising from independent Court TV’s 2006 sale to Time Warner Inc. and subsequent rebranding into the entertainment- driven TruTV, which still offers live courtroom proceedings from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Justice Central will follow live coverage with original and acquired legal-based programming. Shows includepast episodes of three Entertainment Studios legal series currently in syndication: America’s Court With Judge Ross, We The People With Gloria Allred and Justice For All With Christina Perez. A fourth offering is Supreme Justice With Judge Karen.

Rising network fees have come under loud scrutiny from distributors recently. Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt declared last week his company will drop services when audience numbers don’t justify the cost. DirecTV CEO Michael White has also predicted tough negotiations between distributors and content providers going forward.

Allen said he agreed with Britt and White that “content costs need to come down and get in line. We need to pass the efficiencies onto the MVPDs so that they can pass the efficiency onto the subscribers.”

TAKEAWAY

Producer Byron Allen is offering Justice Central free for 10 years in exchange for basic carriage — with future networks to follow.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.