Suddenly, Judge AlexIs the Robe Warrior

Sometimes it takes a TV show a while to hit its stride. Like six years.

Twentieth’s Judge Alex premiered in September 2005 and has chugged along ever since, mostly in lockstep with Twentieth’s Divorce Court. The two court shows air in blocks on many stations across the country. As recently as the 2011 February sweeps, Judge Alex was tied for fifth place among court shows at a 1.3 live plus same day household rating.

But lately, Judge Alex has been on a growth spurt. In the week ended Jan. 22, the show hit a season high 1.9, a 12% improvement over the prior week. Alex also has taken fourth place among the court programs for 11 of the past 12 weeks, tucked in behind such well-known brands as CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown and Warner Bros.’ People’s Court. Season to date, Judge Alex has grown 31% compared to last season.

It’s rare to see that sort of growth in any TV show, but that’s especially so with shows that have been on the air this long. Last month, Twentieth renewed both Judge Alex and Divorce Court on TV stations through the 2013-14 season.

Twentieth attributes at least some of Judge Alex’s improvement to the increasing visibility of the show’s host, Judge Alex Ferrer.

“Even with all of the promotion we did, after five years, awareness of Judge Alex was only 30 to 40%,” says Stephen Brown, Twentieth senior vice president of programming and development. “We knew we had to find other ways to promote Alex as a brand, and we look at all of our shows as brands.”

Twentieth found its opportunity with the Casey Anthony trial last summer.

Ferrer is a judge in Miami, and prior to that he was an attorney and a police officer in the state. With so much expertise in Florida state law, and a naturally telegenic personality, Ferrer became one of the cable news networks’ go-to guys for comments on one of the highest-profile criminal cases of the past few years. In July, Anthony was acquitted of murdering her two-yearold daughter, Caylee, after many months of speculation.

“That was a fascinating case that had people riveted, and I was able to benefit from the opportunity,” says Ferrer. In recent months, the judge has appeared regularly on CNN, HLN and Fox News, and he has also provided legal commentary and opinion for TV stations’ local newscasts.

“It’s fair to say that Casey Anthony was a turning point,” says Brown. “When we came back for the new season, we started to see the ratings increase.”

The boost to Judge Alex’s ratings is particularly apparent in New York, where the show took the 1 p.m. slot on Fox-owned WNYW after Judge Joe Brown moved to 2 p.m. At 1 p.m., Alex’s ratings were up 70% in last November’s sweeps compared to November 2010. It is also helping Judge Alex that WNYW’s ratings are up across the board, including a 45% boost to Fox’s primetime in New York.

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Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). 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.