Courting Younger Viewers


Court TV’s strategy to draw younger viewers with hipper, faster-paced original programming has thus far yielded ratings dividends for the investigation network.

Network president and chief operating officer Art Bell said the addition this year of such story-driven and topical shows as Psychic Detectives, The Investigators and Trace Evidence: The Case Files of Dr. Henry Lee have helped the service pull in more viewers aged 18 to 49.

In fact, Court TV set network ratings and viewership records among the advertiser-coveted group in the third quarter, averaging a 0.4 mark and 401,000 viewers within the demo, an increase of 15% from third-quarter 2003, according to network executives.

Court also reduced its percentage of adults 50 and over who view the network to 52% from 55% in third-quarter 2003. Moreover, in August, the net’s 2004 primetime median age dropped to 50 from 53 during the same period last year.

“We’re taking the necessary steps on the programming side that will appeal to a more youthful audience,” he said.

Bell said Court also has put a greater emphasis on marketing and promoting its new programming, in an effort to reach out to younger viewers.

Court hopes to continue the momentum with a spate of original programs in various stages of development. Premiering Oct. 6 is Russell Simmons Presents: Hip Hop Justice, a one-hour special, produced by the hip-hop entrepreneur that addresses hot-button issues surrounding the musical genre, including profiling, sexual exploitation and the real or perceived relationship between its thuggish lyrics and real-life and gang violence.

Other series scheduled to debut over the next few months include: High Stakes With Ben Mezrich, about underground casinos; The Chase, which will feature contestants as fugitives, pursued across the country by a team of professional trackers; and two reality series, Campus Cops and Impossible Heist.

Bell said most of the younger-targeted shows air between 10 p.m. and midnight, a time when more young adults are watching television. As the network develops more shows, Bell said, Court could devote an entire evening to its edgier content.