New York -- Courtroom Television Network, continuing on a
ratings roll, has three primetime series in development as part of its plan to spend $120
million on programming over the next two years, up 20 percent over last year's
At its upfront presentation last week -- which was slated
to be a Mafia-themed spoof with cameos by The Sopranos'Lorraine
Bracco, Regis Philbin and Time Warner Inc. president Dick Parsons -- Court TV officials
said the network will air more than 250 hours of original evening programming this year,
in addition to its live daytime trial coverage.
Chairman and CEO Henry Schleiff also told media buyers the
network will fork over $20 million to promote the new season's programming -- more
than the service has spent in its prior nine-year history.
The marketing campaign breaks April 1, under the tag line,
"Judgment Days, Sleepless Nights." It will be Court TV's first national
consumer marketing campaign, aimed at adults 25 to 54.
For the 2000-2001 season, Court TV has given the go-ahead
to the series Forensic Files,which "looks at how modern technology
helps us to solve some of the most infamous cases out there," according to Schleiff.
He described Forensic Files, slated to debut in the fourth quarter, as "Dead
The crime-and-justice network has also commissioned a pilot
for The Wrong Man,a one-hour investigative show about the controversial
cases of people who may have been wrongfully imprisoned, some of whom are on death row.
Its production team includes Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, Oscar nominees for The
Learning Channel's On the Ropes. The Wrong Man will debut in the late
third quarter or early fourth quarter.
And best-selling crime-beat writer Dominick Dunne has a
series in development that will look at "how the wealthy and powerful often go free
and unpunished," according to Schleiff. He described that potential show as
"Rich Man Walking."
Court TV, owned by Time Warner Entertainment and Liberty
Media Group, also has two documentary miniseries, shot as "docu-soaps," on its
In the first one, Academy Award nominee Jonathan Stack will
follow a real-life female New Orleans defense attorney. And the second project, Brooklyn
North Homicide,will track the exploits of a big-city homicide squad.
Schleiff described the two docu-soaps as "[MTV: Music
Television's The] Real World meets NYPD Blue.In these
two, we want to emphasize emotion."
Later this year, Court TV will also debut two original
documentary films. Boardwalk Babylon is about a cop in Atlantic City, N.J., who is
also a part-time minister, while The Greatest Murder Story Never Told gets in the
minds of a pair of mass-murderers by using their taped stories.
Court TV also said lawyer Alan Dershowitz -- a First
Amendment expert and Harvard University law professor -- will join the network as an
anchor once a week during his sabbatical in New York, with his first appearance set for
Sept. 8. Dershowitz will appear on Court TV on Fridays through June 2001, anchoring the
network's afternoon trial coverage.
And this fall, mystery writer Patricia Cornwell will host a
special that takes viewers into the world of her characters, such as medical examiner Kay
Since broadening its programming to include crime and
justice and adding fare such as Homicide: Life on the Street to its primetime
lineup, Court TV has seen its ratings soar. Last year in primetime, the network's
ratings rose 300 percent from 1998, to a 0.4 from a 0.1, according to Nielsen Media
Most recently, for the week of March 6, the network posted
a 0.8 rating in primetime, its highest primetime number since the O.J. Simpson trial.
Court TV generated $18.5 million in net ad revenue last
year, according to estimates by Paul Kagan Associates Inc., with $20.5 million projected
for this year.
Court TV's distribution is now at 40 million
subscribers, and Schleiff expects it to hit 50 million by year's end. In terms of
license fees, Court TV registered $37.7 million last year, Kagan estimated, and it is
projected to generate $40.9 million this year.
Time Warner and Liberty -- which bought out NBC's
interest in the network last year and brought in Schleiff to run it -- are happy with the
results Court TV has achieved to date, according to Schleiff. "They feel that they
have a real winner, and they are backing us," he added.