New York -- At its first upfront ever, Courtroom Television
Network last week unveiled its plans to spend $100 million on original and acquired
programming over the next two years.
In a lively presentation that was set up as a mock trial,
Court TV CEO Henry Schleiff said the network was using part of that money to acquire three
documentaries for the 1999-2000 season: Lords of the Mafia, a 13-part series hosted
by Robert Stack; Anatomy of a Crime, a one-hour series produced by John Langley,
whose credits include Cops; and Fatal Attractions, a one-hour strip that
will look at how the most common sins, such as greed and lust, have led to the most
Lords of the Mafia and Anatomy of a Crime are
slated to be part of Court TV's 8 p.m. block.
Talking about Lords of the Mafia, Schleiff said,
"This will be our Biography series," referring to A&E Network's
In addition to recently licensing several theatrical
feature films, Schleiff said, Court TV has also acquired a package of Perry Mason
movies from the last decade that originally aired on NBC. The films feature Raymond Burr.
Court TV, owned by Time Warner Inc. and Liberty Media
Group, began revamping its primetime schedule in January as part of its plan to broaden
its audience appeal. That strategy included adding reruns of Homicide: Life on the
Street to its schedule at 9 p.m.
As a result, Court TV's Nielsen Media Research ratings
have soared from a typical 0.1 in primetime to a 0.4 in recent weeks. Officials expect the
numbers to hit a 0.5 by the fourth quarter.
For the past several years, Court TV had been hamstrung by
haggling among its three original owners -- Time Warner, Liberty and NBC -- over the
direction that the network should take and how its ownership should be structured.
During that squabble, Court TV's funding for marketing
and programming was held up, and the network's ratings remained in the basement.
During the mock trial, Schleiff was interrogated as a
witness. The other participants in the skit included some unlikely co-players: Time Warner
Inc. president Richard Parsons and Johnnie Cochran, who hosts Court TV show Johnnie
Parsons -- at one point joking, "I was actually
promised a better part" -- talked about the investment that Time Warner is making in
Court TV is now in 35 million homes, and it expects to be
in 40 million by the end of the year.