Courtroom Television Network, making good on its promise to
try to broaden its programming, has acquired reruns of the critically acclaimed cop drama Homicide:
Life on the Street from Lifetime Television.
"It's a cornerstone of our new strategy to
broaden our appeal in primetime," Court TV president Henry Schleiff said last week,
describing his first big programming decision as new head of the network.
Homicide will be a landmark for Court TV because
it's the first off-network fictional series that the channel, which airs live trials
during the day, has acquired. Court TV plans to use the gritty series -- which will be
stripped at 9 p.m. weeknights, starting in January -- to draw more viewers to its
"It brings a larger audience to our schedule,"
Schleiff said. "And this happily gives us some traction at 9 p.m. It almost works as
a spotlight for our 10 p.m. block of original programming. And it's consistent with
the reality bent of Court TV."
The move shows that Court TV's newly structured
ownership -- comprised of Time Warner Inc. and Liberty Media Group -- is willing to put
its money where its mouth is in terms of invigorating the legal channel, Schleiff said.
In addition to acquiring the Baltimore-based drama, which
is in first-run on NBC, Court TV is overhauling celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran's
hour-long talk show, Cochran & Co., slicing it to a half-hour show with the new
title, Johnnie Cochran Live. It will air at 8:30 p.m., as a lead-in to Homicide.
Johnnie Cochran Live will still be a talk show, but it
will have higher-profile guests, such as Bill Cosby and Larry King, who have recently
"This show will take advantage of [Cochran's]
courtroom adversarial skills," Schleiff said. "He will no longer be just an
impartial, dispassionate anchor. There will be vigorous debate of issues that are
The revamped Cochran show, like Homicide, will be
added to Court TV's lineup in January. Court TV has more announcements planned for
the Western Show, with the changes all set to be in place by the first quarter.
"We will have entirely revamped our primetime
schedule," Schleiff said.
Some cable operators have questioned the wisdom of Court TV
adding off-network shows, saying that it will take away from the network's core
mission and make it seem like any other cable channel airing reruns.
Court TV has the rights to Homicide until 2003.
Lifetime has most recently been airing Homicide at 1:30 a.m., where it was doing a
very respectable 0.6 Nielsen Media Research household rating in July and August, according
Lifetime acquired Homicide three years ago for just
over $400,000 per episode. Schleiff declined to say how much Court TV is paying Lifetime.
"The multiple successes of our original-programming
ventures have created a deep library of made-for-Lifetime programs, which allows us
to make this deal with Court TV," Lifetime president Doug McCormick said, in a
NBC had to sign off on Lifetime selling Homicide to
Court TV because the show is owned by NBC Productions.