CTD, 'Judge Joe Brown' Explore Split

Amid contract impasse, Brown and distributor both meeting with other partners

If an ongoing contract negotiation between
CBS Television Distribution and Joe Brown,
star of CTD’s Judge Joe Brown, is not resolved,
syndication’s second highest-rated court show might
feature a different judge next fall, according to several
sources. That’s despite the fact that Joe is renewed on
TV stations through the 2014-15 TV season.

In the face of declining ratings, license fees and advertising
revenue, CTD has told Brown that his salary
will be cut significantly. Brown has not re-upped to do
the show under the new terms for this fall and is shopping
it to other distributors, according to sources. The
show is scheduled to end production for its current
season mid-March. Meanwhile, CTD’s salespeople are
proposing to stations to swap in another judge.

One of the judges CTD is considering, according to
several sources, is Judge Geoffrey Gaither, a juvenile
court judge in Marion County, Indiana. While TV station
executives have seen tape featuring Gaither, he
is not necessarily CTD’s final selection should Brown
not re-sign.

Some syndicators said they have received calls from
members of Brown’s crew, looking for new jobs.

Among the distributors that Brown is considering is
Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, with whom sources
say the judge is in “advanced conversations to produce
new episodes of the show for fall.” Entertainment Studios
declined to comment. Brown could not be reached
at presstime via calls to Judge Joe Brown’s production
office at Sunset-Bronson Studios.

Whether station groups will be willing to keep the
show on the air with another judge in Brown’s place
hasn’t been decided yet, but some station executives
who requested anonymity told B&C they were less
than happy to be learning about this situation at the
end of February, when their options for replacing the
show are limited.

CTD declined to comment on “ongoing talent negotiations,”
according to a spokesman.

There is, of course, still the possibility that Brown
will end up signing a new contract with CTD and return
to the air with the distributor this fall as planned.

Sources noted that there are significant advantages to
sticking with CTD, even at a lesser salary. Several syndication
stars have had to take salary cuts in recent years
in the face of a fragmented daytime TV environment,
and even The Oprah Winfrey Show faced license-fee cuts
by the time it went off the air in 2011.

In many markets, Judge Joe Brown is paired with
CTD’s Judge Judy, by far syndication’s No. 1 court show.
Judy still brings in massive ratings, recently surpassing
an 8.0 in households, and often ranks as daytime’s
highest-rated show. When Joe—or any court show—is
paired with Judy, it typically gets a ratings bump. Judy
is such a strong performer that Fox recently upgraded
it to 4 p.m. in three markets—WAGA Atlanta, WTXF
Philadelphia and WTTG Washington, D.C.—where
Fox has found it performs well as a news lead-in.

Like many syndicated shows, ratings for Judge Joe
have been in decline over the past several years.
In the February sweeps (data available through Feb.
17), the show was down 20% to a 2.4 live-plus-sameday
rating from a 3.0 last year, according to Nielsen
Media Research.

Further, the per-episode rating that local stations use
to sell to advertisers is actually lower than the nationally
reported rating. Judge Joe Brown, like Judge Judy, runs in
one-hour blocks of two original half-hours, and those
double runs are added together for the national rating.

For example, on Fox’s WWOR New York at 2 p.m.,
each half-hour of Judge Joe Brown is averaging a 1.0 rating/
3 share in households. That’s down 33% from last year
when the show aired at 2 p.m. on Fox’s WNYW, and
is less than half of the national rating. On CBS’ KCAL
Los Angeles, each episode of the show, which airs at 11
a.m., averages a 1.1/4.

Accordingly, Joe’s revenue have fallen significantly in
recent years, and so have license fees, with one station
executive noting that “We gave [CTD] giant license fee
cuts” for the show in the last round of renewals.

CTD remains TV’s largest syndicator, with such hit
shows in its arsenal as Entertainment Tonight, Wheel of
, Jeopardy! and Dr. Phil. That gives CTD leverage
in the marketplace, from which Judge Joe Brown benefits. Another syndicator, without those big shows in its
portfolio, would not be able to support Judge Joe Brown
in the same way.

E-mail comments to palbiniak@gmail.com
and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA