Programming: Court TV

January 1, 2005

Court TV – The Investigation Channel
(New York, U.S.)

Skewed slightly female, ages 18 to 49, middle income

Primetime Audience
Average 857,000 (8 P.M. to 11 P.M.)

83 million U.S. homes (also have worldwide distributors)

Lynne Kirby,
VP of alternative entertainment

Mark Fichandler,
VP of program development and
international coproduction

Although story-driven crime investigation and forensic murder mysteries are still the core of Court TV’s programming, the channel is in the midst of a brand expansion. ‘We’re adding lighter, more entertainment-driven programs to the mix,’ says Kirby.

With 90% of its programming in the non-fiction genre, the channel is also developing more character-driven and reality-type shows.

Need it
In an attempt to move into more character-based programs, Lynne Kirby, VP of alternative entertainment says Court TV is exploring a range of formats, including reality/doc hybrids. She cites Impossible Heists, a 5 x 1-hour limited series set to air in March, 2005 as an example of one such combo. It’s a competition reality show in which two teams compete to pull off a recreated theft based on real robberies. Heists is an international coproduction by London-based Outline Productions, Toronto-based Blueprint and Discovery International. Mark Fichandler, VP of program development and international copros, estimates Court TV coproduces roughly 15 to 20 hours per year.

As far as content, Kirby says, ‘We’re looking at some non-crime investigative subjects.’ For example, Take Down, a reality show by Los Angeles-based MPH Productions, follows a team of card sharks as they try to expose casino security flaws (with the consent of the casino owner). Court TV is currently piloting two half hours of the show.

Kirby would also like to integrate interactive technology, like cell phone and text messaging, into Court TV’s programming so that viewers will be able to interact with their favorite show.

Don’t Need it
Fichandler says daytime programming on Court TV is one animal, while primetime is another. The daytime schedule is well known for its court coverage, which isn’t used much at night. Still, he says producers not familiar with the channel’s schedule mistakenly pitch ‘Judge Judy-type shows, courtroom shows and legal shows’ for primetime.

And while many of Court TV’s new formats include competition or challenge elements, Kirby and Fichandler stress that they’re not looking for game shows. ‘As we explore the lighter side [of programming],’ Fichandler expands, ‘we’re not going so light that we’re going to have a studio audience with people screaming and yelling and running around in costumes.’

What’s On Now
One of the channel’s most successful series, Psychic Detectives, began airing in September, 2003 – 20 episodes of the half-hour show have aired to date. Produced by Washington, D.C.-based Story House Productions, Detectives follows psychic practitioners who work with the police.

An anchor of Court TV’s original programming, ‘The Investigators’ strand airs for an hour in primetime each night. It’s part of the schedule for which many indie producers provide content, including single-subject one hours, which remain a mainstay for the channel.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.