Indie Syndie: TV Everywhere Is a 'Smart' Move

Entertainment Studios goes global with subscription service

One advantage to owning the rights to all of your own content is having the ability to distribute it any way you want. That’s why Entertainment Studios— producer and distributor of such syndicated shows as America’s Court With Judge Ross and We the People With Gloria Allred—is in the process of launching Smart TV, which offers an online subscription to all of Entertainment Studios’ networks.

“Smart TV is a global television platform,” says Byron Allen, founder, chairman and president of Entertainment Studios, located in Los Angeles. “This is the first platform where you can watch our live television networks or our content on-demand on every device you have anywhere in the world. Nobody else can achieve television everywhere because no one owns all of their content.”

To subscribe to the service, customers sign up at SmartTV.com, choosing which networks they want to access. Each network costs $1.99 per month, and ES eventually plans to offer 10 networks for $9.99 per month. Allen says his ultimate goal is 50-plus niche networks that offer shows across all sorts of topics.

Once someone is subscribed to Smart TV, they can log on to the service from any device with a browser and an Internet connection.

“We’re nothing more than additive to whatever television you already subscribe to,” Allen says. “In the future, we think that’s how people will get their TV. They may have two or three networks off of Smart TV, along with Netflix or Hulu or other services. We are just part of the overall TV landscape.”

Entertainment Studios plans to start heavily promoting the service in the first quarter of next year, although it has been up and running on the website for nearly a year now.

The company offers seven high-de! nition television networks, which are carried on Verizon’s FiOS TV and a few other TV services domestically. Last spring, Entertainment Studios signed a deal with Vivicast Media to distribute the networks internationally. Each network carries shows that ES produces and distributes in broadcast syndication, such as The American Athlete, Comics Unleashed and Entertainers With Byron Allen.

Video offerings from each of the networks are also featured at www.es.tv. Entertainment Studios has long offered its seven nichefocused networks: Cars.TV, MyDestination. TV, ES.TV, Recipe.TV, Comedy.TV, Pets.TV and Legacy.TV. The company also has entered the court-show business in the past two years, with three court shows sold in syndication— America’s Court With Judge Ross, We the People With Gloria Allred and Justice for All With Judge Cristina Perez. Last week ES announced a new, fourth show, Supreme Justice With Judge Karen. That show’s host, Judge Karen Mills-Francis, had previously hosted syndicated court shows produced by Sony Pictures Television and then Litton. This year, ES also debuted two scripted sitcoms, The First Family and Mr. Box Office, which air on Comedy.TV on Thursday and Friday nights, as well as on TV stations.

None of Entertainment Studios’ shows draw high ratings on their own—at a 0.9 season-to-date household average, America’s Court is its highest-rated show—but the distributor makes money by selling most of its shows to TV stations in blocks and then selling advertisements into each show in those blocks. This is not true for the court shows, however.

While Entertainment Studios may not be producing hits like CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy or Wheel of Fortune, it has been the little studio that could since Allen launched it in 1993 as CF Entertainment. As Allen is fond of pointing out, no ES show has ever been cancelled.

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