The Judges Rule


While the broadcast networks struggle with declining viewership in prime time, some syndicated shows are seeing viewership gains. Among them, court shows have shown particular strength.

"Court shows have become what talk shows used to be: a place where average people talk about problems," says Jim Paratore, executive vice president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and president of Telepictures. "People are looking for shows about relatable issues that they can understand, while getting some information and resolution. Court shows provide that."

Paramount's Judge Judy
remains the leader, although its average 4.8 Nielsen household rating is flat year-to-year. In the key daytime demos, results are mixed: up 12% in women 18-34 and 4% in women 18-49, down 4% in women 25-54.

Paramount has renewed Judy
through 2006 in 80% of the country, including WNBC-TV New York, KCBS-TV Los Angeles, WBBM-TV Chicago and many Fox O&Os.

Warner Bros.' Judge Mathis
has shown the genre's most improvement, jumping 25% vs. last season. It's up 11% in women 18-34, 20% in women 18-49, and 20% in women 25-54. Last year, the show returned to its one-hour format and changed executive producers, which apparently helped boost ratings.

Warner Bros.' People's Court, recently upgraded in several markets, also has seen a sizable uptick this year, 17% season-to-date. It's flat in women 18-34, up 22% in women 18-49 and up 20% in women 25-54.

Sony's Judge Hatchett
has improved by 20% compared with last year. It also has seen improvement across the key demos, 11% in women 18-34, 20% in women 18-49 and 20% in women 25-54.

Judge Glenda Hatchett this fall published a book titled Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say: 7 Simple Strategies To Help Our Children Along the Path to Purpose and Possibility
and went on a major publicity tour. Sony executives think that publicity may have paid off for the show.

As for the rest of the court genre, Paramount's Judge Joe Brown
is up 3% in households year-to-year, Twentieth's Texas Justice
is flat, and its Divorce Court
is down 7%.