Court TV today unveiled its long-awaited new name - truTV. Come Jan. 1, 2008, the network will drop its old moniker and logo in favor of truTV and expand its programming slate to include the action-based programming executives say the new name reflects.
Network executives announced plans for the rebrand at Court's upfront in March and, as per plans to unveil the changes this summer, told key advertisers and cable operators of the new branding last night.
The plan, said executives at the time and now, is to target a psychographic called "Real Engagers," by revamping daytime trial coverage, adding nighttime entertainment shows and taking on a new name and look.
“It gave us the opportunity to do both scripted and nonscripted programming that exactly mirrored the position we architected and crafted using consumer research,” Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin told B&C in an interview.
A team of seven Turner executives in New York and Atlanta considered some 4,000 names before settling upon three finalists in April. After that, Turner conducted focus groups with viewers and the overwhelming majority of them picked tru, he said.
Turner will add a new tagline as part of a major consumer awareness-based marketing campaign planned to begin October 1.
Said Marc Juris, Court TV’s General Manager Marc Juris, “the name communicates not only the essence of the programming you will see, but it has a nice, clear, defining, descriptive notion about it and it’s very positive and aspirational.”
The new logo appears similar to Court's with the same rounded font and red-and-black colors and the new name. Also, "tru" is the second half of "court" spelled backwards, although Koonin calls that a "fortunate coincidence."
That racy nighttime programming the network has run has led to significant ratings gains over the past year, making the Court TV name - more evocative of the trial coverage the network runs during the day - increasingly moot, executives say.
Now, daytime programming will be retooled into a six-hour block that will lead into the new hour-long Star Jones talk show at 3 p.m. As planned in March, trial coverage will move to the Web during the afternoon.
The network plans to continue pumping action into reality shows in early fringe, prime, and latenight, and announced four new series with the rebrand. Their subjects include dueling neighbors (Granada's Neighbors 911), ski patrollers (Bunim/Murray's Ski Patrol), Texas oil prospectors (Original Productions' Black Gold) and storm enthusiasts (Tiger Aspect USA's Outlaw Chasers).
In March, the network announced 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.
The network, 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.
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.
Says Rudy Gaskins, CEO/executive creative director of branding-services agency Push Creative, who worked on Court's rebrand around 2000: "The network was really hamstrung by the daytime programming as well as the attitude that could come across if they went full-scale crime." He spoke to B&C when Turner announced plans for this latest rebrand in March. “It has been a struggle, and I don't know how much success they've really had overcoming this problem.”
Court has seen huge ratings gains with its action-packed primetime entertainment shows over the past year. Thanks partly to its RED - or Real. Exciting. Dramatic. block, during second quarter, Court's primetime audience grew 32% to 1.11 million viewers (its audience in the key 18-49 demographic grew 16% to 420,000 viewers).
That's compared with the relatively small audience the network's overall daily programming - including daytime trial-based coverage - draws: 597,000 viewers during second quarter, 243,000 of them in the 18-49 demo.
Executives at the network have spent the past several months getting the requisite clearances for using the new name across various platforms, says Koonin.
Koonin, who masterminded rebrands for Turner's TNT and TBS cable networks to focus on drama and comedy, respectively, says that Court's rebrand has been an internal team effort (by Court TV General Manager Marc Juris and others), not by outside brand consultants.