Docs

Ed Hersh heads up docs at Court TV

Why the move to Court TV? What impressed me most when making this decision was Court TV's desire to make documentaries a signature part of [their] programming strategy.
February 1, 2001

Why the move to Court TV?

What impressed me most when making this decision was Court TV’s desire to make documentaries a signature part of [their] programming strategy.

Does your departure from A&E signal a change in that cablecaster’s direction?

There’s a new emphasis on made-for-A&E original movies and series. There’s only so much time in the primetime schedule, so how that bodes for documentaries is unclear. A&E’s schedule has been very heavily documentary, and it can probably stand a little variety. That’s their view anyway. Without putting any value judgement on it, it’s clear there’s a new emphasis.

Is this a return to the work you did at ABC News?

I like to look at it as a continuation. While I was at ABC, I had a role in a few of the major documentaries. In 1985, we did a three-hour special titled ’45-’85, about the history of the Cold War; I was a senior producer for an historical documentary series called Our World; and I helped oversee the long-form coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

Do you see news networks as Court TV’s competition?

Yes. There’s enormous interest in the judicial system, in the criminal justice system, and in the legal system. We certainly saw that at A&E. Ironically, the news networks – when there’s no breaking news – don’t know what to do! MSNBC is now trying to do crime and justice long-form docs in primetime, so I think we’re in a good position. We present a genre there’s enormous interest in.

Can we expect to see a long-form doc examining the legal ins and outs of the last U.S. presidential election?

We have to remember that [Court TV] is not a news network. In many ways, I think the election story is over. In every case, we have to look at what we can bring to the story to tell it better and differently. I’ve been looking at that story, and I’m not sure what’s new. There’s no new case coming up, we’ve heard everybody interviewed"Perhaps at some point we’ll be able to look back with hindsight and there will be some new aspects to it, but for now that’s a hard one.

With the recent emphasis on factual formats, do you see a change in the types of programs Court TV specializes in?

I think everyone has seen that these types of programs can get very good ratings. The great challenge is to develop a signature storytelling style for Court TV and a format that attracts an audience. We also want to represent quality and depth.

What has your first week at Court TV consisted of?

Meetings, meetings, meetings and a few more meetings.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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