Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial in New York, which is slated for September, will headline gavel-to-gavel courtroom coverage on the reborn Court TV.
The network, reactivating a TV brand that revolutionized trial coverage as much as ESPN did sports or CNN did news, relaunched in May as a multicast network operated by E.W. Scripps-owned Katz Broadcasting. During a panel session Saturday at TCA summer press tour, executives were challenged about their claims that Court TV will be “the only network” covering the Weinstein trial gavel-to-gavel.
They conceded that they cannot legally broadcast live from inside the courtroom at New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, which will be the site of a full-on media circus. But Court TV’s unique DNA, they maintained, will create a unique experience for viewers amid the scrum.
VP and managing editor John Alleva said the network will have “reporters and correspondents who rotate in and out of the courtroom,” meaning Court TV will be “the only network that covers it in virtual real time.”
Correspondent and attorney Seema Iyer said she has practiced law for 15 years in the same courthouse in Lower Manhattan. “I know the judge, I know the lawyers,” she asserted, conferring several advantages on her.
During the session, Katz also announced Court TV will add additional distribution in 17 major markets on October 28 that will put it in 90% of U.S. broadcast homes. Nielsen ratings will be initiated in the next two months. Asked about viewership since the May launch, CEO Jonathan Katz, a longtime former Turner exec who founded Katz eight years ago, said viewing has averaged one hour on digital platforms. On Roku, he added, the average view time is nearly three hours. “It’s really sticky content,” he said.
Original programming will also debut in the fall, with shows like OJ 25, which will look back on the O.J. Simpson case 25 years later. The Simpson trial, of course, put the original network on the map three years after its launch. In 2006, Turner bought it and rebranded it as truTV and abandoned courtroom coverage. A top 20 cable network at the time, according to stats presented by Katz at TCA, truTV has never regained that perch. True-crime programming across the dial or on Netflix or podcasts shows the strong appetite for the kind of programming Court TV will deliver.
Another original show in the works, Court TV Mysteries, will mine the 1,000-trial library that Katz acquired along with other assets from Court TV.
Katz’s other multicast networks, including Laff, Bounce, Escape and Grit each reach 100 million households across platforms.
“Consumers love to be armchair jurors,” Katz said. “The over-the-top nature of the network allows us to do some different thing.”
Court TV VP and managing editor Scott Tufts said the network would not shy away from any politically charged trials or legal proceedings, even those involving Donald Trump’s White House.
Despite saturation cable news coverage, he said, “We can offer something different to America that they may not be getting somewhere else.”