Katz Networks, a unit of the E.W. Scripps Co. which operates multicast networks like Bounce, Escape and Grit, will relaunch Court TV in May 2019. Just as it did when it was owned by Turner Broadcasting, the network will be devoted to live, gavel-to-gavel coverage, legal reporting and expert analysis of trials across the country. Court TV’s 17-year run ended in 2008, when Turner rebranded it as truTV.
In order to pull off the reboot, Katz acquired Court TV’s intellectual property, including the trademark, website and 100,000-hour library from Turner. It also brought in original Court TV anchor Vinnie Politan as lead anchor and installed former Court TV and CNN producers John Alleva and Scott Tufts as vice presidents and managing editors. The newsroom and studio will be in Atlanta.
In its new incarnation, Court TV will be an ad-supported network available through cable and satellite bundles as well as over-the-air and streaming over-the-top. The network has secured over-the-air distribution on major local TV station groups including Tribune, Scripps and Univision. Those deals will make Court available in more than 50% of U.S. TV households at launch, with cable reach to 25% of homes.
During its prime years in the 1990s and early 2000s, Court TV was desirable acquisition target and an incubator of notable talent both on camera and in the executive suite. Its on-air personalities included Nancy Grace, Dan Abrams, Catherine Crier and Terry Moran and its executive roster included Henry Schleiff (now a group president at Discovery), Erik Sorenson (who went on to lead MSNBC) and Evan Shapiro (a producer and former head of cable networks IFC and Pivot).
“Court TV was a top-20 cable network and at the height of its popularity when the network was taken off the air in 2008,” said Jonathan Katz, president and CEO of Katz Networks. “Today, while consumer interest in the real-life drama of true-crime programming is at an all-time high, there is no dedicated daily court coverage on television. We expect the new Court TV to fill that void on cable, satellite, over-the-air and over-the-top.”
One key component of the strategy, Katz said in the official announcement, is to leverage archival footage of more than 1,000 trials. The company described that cache as “a wealth of content that will allow Court TV to enhance new courtroom coverage, revisit past trials and create original programming and specials.”
Brian Lawlor, president of Local Media for Scripps, said the parent company and Katz Networks “look forward to reestablishing Court TV’s important legacy of providing Americans with transparency into the U.S. courts system and fulfilling our company mission of journalism and public service.”
Court TV originally launched as a co-venture involving media entrepreneur Steven Brill as well as Time Warner, Cablevision and NBC Cable. Time Warner bought out the venture partners for $735 million in 2006.