The Challenge of a Court TV Rebrand
Network will get a new name and look by 2008
By Anne Becker -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/18/2007 8:00:00 PM
Court TV executives got the cable industry talking last week when they announced that, within the year, their network will no longer be “Court TV.”
Aiming to target a psychographic they're calling Real Engagers, they plan to revamp daytime trial coverage, add nighttime entertainment shows, and take on a new name and look by Jan.1, 2008.
Court, which was acquired by Time Warner and folded into its Turner division last year, has repositioned itself several times before, most recently dividing its programming into trial coverage during the day and entertainment programming at night.
Although no one at the company is giving details, some have a good idea what the new brand will be. Executives will spend the months before this summer getting the requisite clearances for using it across various platforms, says Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin.
While he will say the target “real engagers” enjoy watching “real-life stories and true characters,” he maintains that the new brand isn't wholly about reality programming. “We're going nowhere near there. That's not even close to what we're doing,” he says, noting that the reincarnated Court can also program scripted series, so long as they're true stories.
In an age of Google's YouTube, News Corp.'s MyNetworkTV and MySpace, and Nickelodeon's ME:TV, might Court's new moniker have some sort of narcissistic focus of its own? “First person is a hugely important element of this because this is the 'me' era we're in,” says Koonin. “We feel this first person is a key element. And when you put those two together—first person and real-life engagement—we think we have something really unique and special, and it's much bigger than the promise of Court TV, which I think is limited in its position.”
Indeed, Court saw huge ratings gains with its action-packed primetime entertainment shows last year. Thanks partly to its “RED” or “Real. Exciting. Dramatic.” block, during February, Court's primetime audience in the key 18-49 demographic jumped 37%, to 506,000, year-to-year.
That's compared with the relatively small audience the network's daytime trial-based coverage commands: 296,000 viewers 18-49 that month.
Sources familiar with the network before its acquisition by Turner say Court's ad-sales staffers—who were laid off after the Turner buy—had long wanted a name change to reflect the saucier programming at night. But they didn't want to scare off advertisers with a name suggesting an environment full of blood and gore.
“The network was really hamstrung by the daytime programming as well as the attitude that could come across if they went full-scale crime,” says Rudy Gaskins, CEO/executive creative director of branding-services agency Push Creative, who worked on Court's rebrand around 2000. “It has been a struggle, and I don't know how much success they've really had overcoming this problem.”
Former Court CEO Henry Schleiff, who oversaw Court's marketing push in recent years and is now head of Hallmark Channel, declined comment.
The network is developing several primetime reality shows on, among other things, police interrogations (The Room), con artists (The Real Hustle) and high-end security experts (Tiger Team). Also in development are quarterly specials from Court TV-owned Website the smokinggun.com, such as The Dumbest Criminals in the World.
Daytime programming will be redone and lead into a 3-5 p.m. block of back-to-back talk shows hosted by Nancy Grace, whose Closing Arguments shrinks from two hours to one, and Star Jones. Trial coverage will move to the Web during the afternoon.
Koonin, who masterminded rebrands for Turner's TNT and TBS cable networks to focus on drama and comedy, respectively, says that Court's rebrand is an internal team effort (by Court TV General Manager Marc Juris and others), not by outside brand consultants.
The new brand—name, tagline, logo and on-air look—will be unveiled to advertisers this summer.
THAT'S THE WORST NEWS I'VE HEARD IN A LONG TIME...I KNOW SO MANY PEOPLE WHO WATCH TRIAL COVERAGE...EVEN GOING HOME ON THEIR LUNCH HOURS TO WATCH...IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK WITHOUT LIVE COVERAGE OF TRIALS...THESE CAR CHASES AND EXPLOSIONS ARE GOING TO FADE OUT VERY QUICKLY...SORRY...JUST MY OPINION...LIZ IN CONNECTICUT
Elizabeth T. Esposito - 6/26/2007 5:03:00 PM EDT
PLease do not change the format read the response from viewers like myself. Take note of what we like about court tv thats makes it so unique and informational.We buy the products that sponsor the show please let us have say in this.I think this move will be the beggining of the end for the network no one will watch.
Barry orr - 6/5/2007 9:58:00 PM EDT
Our protestations will avail naught. This decision, like most decisions in business, was made for reasons of profit (ratings). The new programming, will lose them even more viewers, but do they care? No. "Never underestimate the ignorance of the American people." Those ignoramuses (and there are many of them) who love shows like Most Shocking, etc., send the ratings up. The bottom line is advertising. Advertisers will pull out if the ratings fall.
So we will lose Court TV. Sigh. One of the hardest lessons I've learned in my 68 years of life is: the only absolute in the universe is change. Nothing lasts forever.
Susan Rand - 6/4/2007 12:01:00 PM EDT
I do NOT like the new plans---sounds like we will be losing Court TV to a new format of junk tv instead of real trials.
Please let Court TV know that we DON''''T WANT IT TO CHANGE!
James Black - 5/31/2007 12:02:00 AM EDT
I can't tell you how disappointed I am in the changes that are going to be made to Court TV. The biggest mistake of all is replacing Catherine Crier with Starr Jones. Also, Court TV is the only network that covers live trials. This has given many people the opportunity to see, first hand, the workings of a courtroom. Keeping up with the legal news has become an actual hobby for me. Because I work during the day, I do not have the opportunity to watch all of the trial coverage, but I do tape Catherine Crier everyday. Watching her coverage of the legal news is one of the things I look forward to while I am winding down in the evening. You are losing yet another viewer.
G. VanSlyke - 5/26/2007 10:21:00 PM EDT
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