Warner Bros. Takes Over CW Daytime

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution will supply programming for The CW's 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekday block, according to a pending deal between the corporate cousins.

Beginning this fall, The CW, jointly owned by CBS and Warner Bros., will air Telepictures Productions' rookie court show Judge Jeanine Pirro from 3 to 4, followed by a comedy block featuring The Wayans Bros. and The Jamie Foxx Show.

Eventually, The CW would like to have two full hours of first-run product in the block by next year. WBDTD and The CW originally discussed doing that immediately, but decided to just start with one hour for now.

While the network does promote prime time in the block, CW executives know the daytime court audience is not exactly the core Gossip Girl viewership. The daytime block marks one-third of the 30 hours the network programs.

But CW chief operating officer John Maatta says the move gives CW affiliates stronger programming in the block, which leads into comedies on most stations at 5. “Mainly we hope this will help our stations, which ultimately will help us,” he says. “This is an affiliate play for Tribune and our other stations.”

WBDTD president Ken Werner says the block is a perfect transitional lineup for the stations, which have early afternoon talk shows (like Maury and Jerry Springer) and court shows until 3, and then go into comedies at 5.

The block had consisted of comedies including All of Us, What I Like About You and Reba.

“If you look at the available audience, the combination of court with some iconic stars in sitcoms seems like a smart strategy,” Werner says.

The Wayans Bros. and Jamie Foxx are also probably better fits with the stations' daytime audience, and are both well known to the former UPN stations that are now carrying The CW.

Maatta says the network looked at several first-run genres including court, talk and game shows, and talked to several potential partners. But keeping the pipeline in the company through a barter arrangement made financial sense and he was happy with the product WBDTD offered him.

“Obviously our partners at Warner Bros. have expertise in the genre,” Maatta says.

The new court show will originate in Chicago. Fellow gaveler Greg Mathis (Judge Mathis) will consult and his executive producer, Bo Banks, will handle the same duties for Pirro.

WBDTD previously had a show featuring Pirro, the former Westchester County (N.Y.) District Attorney and regular contributor to Fox News Channel in development. But until now the company never found a launch vehicle that made economic sense.

Telepictures president Hilary Estey McLoughlin hopes Pirro's personality and experience, which includes a recent run for New York State Attorney General, will help her stand out in the crowded court genre.

And Werner is unconcerned by a perceived glut of court shows.

“All of court is down, but when you find a personality you think will work, you place that bet,” he says. “More often than not those bets have worked out for us.”