Courts get short shrift

Petry, Katz predict fall off in genre; disagree about talkers

If you're in the court-show business, you may want to call your lawyer and review the license agreements. According to two major rep firms-Katz and Petry-it's going to be wild ride for the genre from now till next fall, with some of those shows drawing the harshest sentence: cancellation.

In a Monday-night presentation in Las Vegas, Katz Programming Vice President Bill Carroll told clients that perhaps three of the 10 current court shows on the air "are unlikely to be called to order in fall 2001."

Petry Television predicts that two court shows may get the ax by next fall. But, according to Dale Kendall Browne, programming director, Petry Media (which includes co-owned Blair Television), the coming shakeout is a good thing. It should stabilize the genre, she said at a presentation for Petry clients also on Monday.

Browne reported that the court-show genre dropped a half rating point in November, to an average 2.2 from an average 2.7 in November 1999, according to Nielsen Syndication Service data. Ten shows simply over-saturate the market. Weeding out the bad ones should get the genre back on track, she said.

In another major category-talk shows-the two reps had radically different advice for their clients.

Petry Media Programming Vice President Garnett Losak offered a risk-averse strategy to her client base, noting that older talk shows, including Montel, Ricki
and Jenny, are reviving. The ebb and flow of formats means that, although Judge Judy
hurt talk shows, the proliferation of substandard Judy
copycats has pushed viewers to talk shows again. Many now even out-perform the daytime daypart as a whole.

The quality of the new talk shows varies, she noted. "But they are all risky. Now is not the time to gamble on a new talk show," particularly if the choice is between a new talk show and one that has been on the air awhile.

Katz, on the other hand, is bullish on the new talkers. "Talk is the talk of NATPE this year," said Katz Programming Director Jim Curtin. "It is our judgment that the time has come to move on and replace tired talk shows with programs that we believe have greater upside potential."

High on Katz's recommended list is King World's Ananda, starring the MTV host. "We feel the youthful Ananda
could be the voice of the next generation of talk shows," Curtin said.

He also recommended Buena Vista's Iyanla
for traditional affiliates, adding that Talk or Walk
ought to be considered by Fox, UPN and The WB affiliates, which tend to look for "edgier" formats.

In the magazine field, Petry Programming Director Terri Luke reported that the top four shows have been stable or grown for the past several books after a shakeout a few years ago weeded out American Journal and Hard Copy. Her recommendation for ET
licensees who haven't yet done so: Renew the show so that it isn't taken away by a competitor.

In the off-network arena, Katz Programming Director Ruth Lee Leaycraft said veterans Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier
and The Simpsons
remain the dominant sitcom performers. Looking ahead, she recommended King of Queens
for 2003 and Malcolm in the Middle
for 2004.

In the relationship/game category, Katz Programming Director Lisa Hollender recommended Universal's Fifth Wheel
and Telepictures' Elimidate
as the two best bets among the new prospects.

As a general theme this year, said Petry's Losak, stations should view their schedule as they would a stock portfolio: "Diversify your lineup while hanging on to your blue chips."