Justice Scores With Media
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/24/2002 7:00:00 PM
Warner Bros.' new strip that focuses on the legal hardships of stars, Celebrity Justice, is mostly cleared in late-night spots and scores a modest 1.2 in Nielsen's national ratings. But the show's a hit in many markets, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New Orleans, where people can't get enough of celebrities and their problems.
News organizations also have noticed the show and often have its anchors and correspondents on their programs to talk about high-profile cases, such as the murder trial of Robert Blake. CJ correspondents have been on NBC's Today show, CNN's Larry King Live, Phil Donahue's MSNBC show and Fox News'O'Reilly Factor. A sales-promotion tape claims that, since its inception, Celebrity Justice has "broken more stories than any news organization in America," including such stories as the auto accident of Six Feet Under star Eric Balfour and Winona Ryder's prior shoplifting problems.
Before the show launched, Warner Bros. spent eight months making sure there was enough material to do such a daily strip. Turns out, there was more than enough, says Jim Paratore, president of Telepictures Productions and executive vice president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. "We created a unit inside Extra that developed the idea and gave us a chance to do development work in real time."
After producing segments for Warner Bros. newsmagazine Extra and also "paper-producing" the show— putting it all together without the video—the studio went ahead with the plan. It set up a news and research department that produces so much material that the studio is considering selling the show's product as a news service. The show already provides clips that local stations can use in news programs, and stations want more.
Key to the show's success, Paratore says, is treating celebrities on trial fairly and objectively, so that their lawyers are willing to cooperate. "Access to the celebrities is crucial. You have to be able to handle stories in an honest and balanced way. It certainly has helped us that [executive producer] Harvey Levin knew these lawyers and they knew him."
Celebrity Justice is cleared on 226 stations in 96% of the country, 64% of those clearances on The WB affiliates.
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