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Insiders: Schleiff Out at Court TV

5/03/2006 11:36 AM Eastern

Henry Schleiff is losing his position as CEO of Court TV, insiders at the network confirmed after Schleiff broke the news to senior staffers Wednesday.

Schleiff, who has headed the network since October 1998, will remain as chairman after Time Warner Inc. takes over full ownership of Court TV, buying out 50% owner Liberty Media Corp. Insiders said they expect the transaction to be completed early next week.

People at the network said Schleiff learned his fate in a meeting Tuesday with Time Warner Inc. chief operating officer Jeffrey Bewkes.

One network insider said Court TV will retain a New York presence, with a number of marketing and production staffers retaining their jobs alongside the network’s on-air talent. Court TV employs more than 400 people.

Plans call for Schleiff to continue to work in Court TV’s midtown Manhattan offices through month’s end, before relocating to the Time Warner Center. “There are discussions about whether Henry will stay at Court or have something else at Time Warner,” one network official said.

Another person familiar with the changes described Schleiff’s remaining as chairman as likely to be an interim step. “He’ll stay for a period of time,” the person said.

Court TV and Time Warner officials declined to comment officially on Schleiff Wednesday afternoon, citing the fact that the transaction hasn’t been completed yet.

Other insiders said Schleiff was quite emotional in relating the news. Later, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend ceremonies surrounding the recent opening of a news bureau there, a network official said. The network threw a party at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, attended by network senior executives, staffers and invited guests.

Court TV -- in about 85 million homes, according to Nielsen figures -- this year averaged, in primetime, 930,000 total viewers and 391,000 viewers 18-49 through April 26, its best ratings performance ever for that four-month period.

During Time Warner’s earnings call Wednesday, Bewkes discussed the prospects of absorbing Court TV into the Turner Broadcasting System Inc. network stable, which is expected to lead to staff reductions in redundant functions, such as affiliate sales, after Time Warner completes the buyout.

On the conference call, Bewkes said Time Warner and Liberty have built a strong programming, brand and marketing capability at Court TV, adding, “Clearly, we will keep that -- we’ve been instrumental in building it for the past 10 years -- and we will preserve the strengths over at Court TV in our people there to continue to increase the strength of the programming, the original programming and the marketing.”

“Having said that,” he continued, “there are clearly some improvements in the business we can do by using some of the Turner capabilities in either back office in terms of cost, or in distribution in terms of affiliate representation. That would, we think, increase the competitive power of Court TV, including the financial results.”

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