Court TV to return as a digital subchannel

New Katz network signs with Tribune Media’s WGN-TV and 21 others

First, we have TV shows such as Magnum P.I. and Murphy Brown being rebooted. Now, we have whole cable networks getting the treatment.

Scripps-owned Katz Broadcasting announced Monday it has acquired the intellectual rights to the Court TV name from Turner Broadcasting and re-launching it as a digital subchannel network in May 2019, available not only on broadcast TV, but cable and over-the-top as well. The channel plans to run the 100,000 hours of content it has in its library and is bringing  back Vinnie Politan to be the lead anchor. Court TV plans to compete in the “true crime” space with Escape, Oxygen, and Investigation Discovery (Discovery ID), with some content original programming.

Last year, T Dog Media looked at the true-crime genre, ranging from program re-enactments to real-life crime documentaries to docudramas. Before 2000, they basically made up what was known as “reality TV”.

Court TV plans “around-the-clock coverage and analysis of the nation’s top trials.” Joining Politian is John Alleva and Scott Tufts in the role of vice presidents and managing editors. Alleva was a producer at the original Court TV for 15 years and Tufts produced trial coverage for CNN.

During its heyday in the 1990s, Court TV televised live trials involving the Melendez Brothers, Casey Anthony, and of course, O.J. Simpson, whose frenzy practically drove cable subscriptions during the era and siphoned ratings points away from broadcast networks and local stations in daytime and early fringe time periods. Its popularity even spawned a syndicated spinoff series produced by Court TV called Inside America’s Courts, which aired during the 1995-96 season.

Ratings fell during the 2000s, leading Turner to abandon the legal programming and rebranded itself as TruTV in 2008.

Katz Communications’ President and CEO  Johnathan Katz said in a statement: “Court TV was a top-20 cable network and at the height of its popularity when the network was taken off the air in 2008. Today, while consumer interest in the real-life drama of true-crime programming is at an all-time high, there is no dedicated daily court coverage on television. We expect the new Court TV to fill that void on cable, satellite, over-the-air and over-the-top.”

The new Court TV has achieved a 50 percent clearance rate, with Tribune, Univision, Entravision, and Scripps (naturally) on board. In Chicago, WGN-TV plans to slot Court TV on either channel 9.4 (now occupied by Sinclair’s youth-skewing TBD channel) or channel 9.5. Tribune is slotting Court TV in 21 other markets, including New York and Los Angeles. Last week, Tribune agreed to a $4.1 billion merger with Nexstar after a similar deal with Sinclair collapsed earlier this year over regulatory concerns.

Tribune owns Antenna TV on WGN’s 9.2 channel and This on 9.3, with MGM.

Katz currently operates numerous digital subchannel networks, including Laff and Grit. With the exception of Bounce (which is at WCIU’s 26.5), all of Katz’s diginets in Chicago are seen over Univision’s WXFT or WGBO frequencies. Recently, religious WJYS-TV (Channel 62) has picked up some new diginet channels, including Sinclair’s Charge and Stadium channels. WXFT has also picked up Tegna’s new science-based Quest channel.

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