Texas Justice, Twentieth style
By Suzanne Ault -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/25/2001 7:00:00 PM
Twentieth Television, one of the few major syndicators that did not present a new effort at NATPE, is going against the grain again. It's going local-unspooling the court strip Texas Justice regionally.
While the distributors' rivals are sticking with typical national syndication rollouts this fall, revving up Texas Justice on just six Fox O&O stations starting March 26 "is the vision for our future," says Twentieth chief Bob Cook.
Another specifically targeted project from Twentieth will likely debut this year, according to Cook. He indicated it will probably be a talk effort premiering on a different set of stations, but declined to give further details.
With shaky economic forecasts creating a soft TV ad market, Cook says it's critical for Twentieth to limit its spending through such regional show launches. And Texas Justice , taped and aired at one of the participating six stations, KRIV-TV Houston, will not empty Twentieth's pockets because "it's the epitome of station-group synergy."
Producing Texas Justice with KRIV-TV's current infrastructure, an already in-place production staff, post-production capabilities and stage "makes it considerably less expensive than if we did it using traditional means," which can often involve hiring new people or constructing new sets.
Cook wants to introduce the nation to Texas Justice, starring Houston lawyer Larry Joe Doherty, as soon as this fall, if "it performs by the end of May'' sweeps. But going slowly gives Twentieth "the tremendous opportunity to test and fine-tune it." That gives Texas Justice an edge in surviving today's largely hitless syndication market.
The other signed-on stations are KDFW-TV Dallas; WAGA-TV Atlanta; WBRC-TV Birmingham, Ala.; WHBQ-TV Memphis, Tenn.; and WGHP-TV Greensboro, N.C. They also are insulated from financial risk. They've been granted Texas Justice's entire advertising inventory, "money that will come to us indirectly since it is all going to our sister TV station group," explains Cook.
Also boosting Cook's drive to be different is the fact that Twentieth has had luck with regional launches before, premiering Cops first in Los Angeles and Current Affair in New York, two shows that went on to national syndication runs.
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