From July 1, 1991 through Dec. 31, 2007, cable and DBS viewers across the U.S. had access to a channel devoted to coverage of live courtroom trials, complete with anchors and reporters. This channel found a deep audience thanks to its 1994 coverage of the murder trial of Lyle and Erik Menendez, and the historic 1995 murder trial of O.J. Simpson.
Since New Year’s Day 2008, the offering has been branded as TruTV, under the full ownership of Time Warner following the end of a partnership with Liberty Media, the Dolan family’s Cablevision, and NBC.
Now, Court TV is set to make its reappearance — this time as a digital multicast channel just in time to benefit from the voluntary rollout of the ATSC 3.0 next-gen broadcast television standard.
It is all thanks to efforts by The E.W. Scripps Co. national multicast arm Katz Networks to bring back a channel that saw its best success 25 years ago.
Much like what was seen in the early 1990s, Court TV under Katz will offer live gavel-to-gavel coverage, in-depth legal reporting and expert analysis of the nation’s “most important and compelling trials.”
Given the continued popularity of courtroom programming, including the forthcoming Judge Jerry featuring veteran daytime talk show host Jerry Springer from NBCU and the top-rated Caso Cerrado on Telemundo, the move could prove timely and successful for Katz and Scripps.
A May 2019 launch is planned, with a full roll-out that includes MVPD distribution (digital multicasts are included on cable systems in many markets), as well as via OTT means — a necessity at the dawn of the 2020s.
Scripps is pitching its Katz Networks version of Court TV as a “reboot,” as the former Court TV under Time Warner is a very different value proposition to viewers as TruTV. Today, that network is devoted to comedy, not criminal trials, and features such fare as Impractical Jokers and The Carbonaro Effect.
Indeed, it is a reboot, as Katz has acquired Court TV’s intellectual property, including the trademark, Court TV website and complete, original 100,000-hour Court TV library from Turner Broadcasting.
Furthermore, original Court TV anchor Vinnie Politan will serve as lead anchor. Since Court TV, Politan has appeared on Turner’s HLN, on Sirius XM, and was most recently at TEGNA-owned NBC affiliate WXIA-11 in Atlanta.
Former Court TV and CNN producers John Alleva and Scott Tufts will join as vice presidents and managing editors.
The reborn Court TV has secured over-the-air distribution agreements with such broadcast TV companies as Tribune Media, Entravision and Univision (which does use its multicast channels for programming that appeals to Hispanics and the total market, in English), and Scripps-owned stations.
The external distribution agreements gives Court TV reach of more than 50% of U.S. television households at launch. Half of that audience has access via a MVPD, reflecting the continued struggle to get every multicast offering in a market on a local channel lineup.
Tribune Broadcasting will carry Court TV in 22 markets, including New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Miami-Fort Lauderdale; Denver; St. Louis; Seattle-Tacoma; and Sacramento. Entravision’s 10 Court TV markets include Boston; Orlando; and Wichita. Univision will carry the network in San Antonio; Albuquerque; and Bakersfield — markets with a high percentage of English fluency among Hispanic audiences.
Explaining the return of Court TV, Katz President/CEO Jonathan Katz said, “Court TV was a top-20 cable network and at the height of its popularity when the network was taken off the air in 2008. Today, while consumer interest in the real-life drama of true-crime programming is at an all-time high, there is no dedicated daily court coverage on television. We expect the new Court TV to fill that void on cable, satellite, over-the-air and over-the-top.”
Eight Scripps markets will carry Court TV, including Tampa-St. Petersburg; Detroit; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Las Vegas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Tucson.
Also adding Court TV as a multicast offering is Citadel Communications-owned WLNE-6 in Providence-New Bedford. This Citadel is led by Philip J. Lombardo, and is unrelated to former radio station owner Citadel Broadcasting.
“Scripps and Katz look forward to reestablishing Court TV’s important legacy of providing Americans with transparency into the U.S. courts system and fulfilling our company mission of journalism and public service,” said Brian Lawlor, president of Local Media for Scripps. “We believe today’s TV audiences will be drawn to the network, leading to the same strong revenue growth and return on investment the other Katz networks have delivered.”
Court TV joins African-American focused multicultural network Bounce, female-friendly Escape, Westerns and action-driven Grit, comedy and stand-up focused Laff and OTT-delivered Brown Sugar, offering a slate of films of particular interest to Black audiences.