- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New order in the Court

Starting Jan. 1, one of the best-known cable networks in the business will demolish a 16-year-old brand that took hundreds of millions of dollars to build — all in a bold bid to become even bigger.

Court TV, home of Dominick Dunne, “Cops” and lawyer-turned-TV personality Star Jones, will become “truTV” in one of the biggest marketing makeovers in cable history. The swap, say its owners, is long overdue to identify the channel’s programming, Broadcasting & Cable magazine reported yesterday.

The network will abandon Court’s logo and its prime time “Seriously Entertaining” tag line in favor of a new insignia — the word “tru” in bold (“true” didn’t test as well) attached to an encircled “TV” and the tag line, “Not Reality. Actuality.”

According to B&C;, truTV will keep its live trial coverage during the day in a block newly named “In Session,” but it will drop its Nielsen Media Research ratings for that day part. In prime time, it will bolster the genre that has fueled 18 months of year-to-year ratings growth: unscripted, adrenaline-packed, male-skewing joy rides such as “Beach Patrol,” “Hot Pursuit” and “Speeders.”

During the third quarter, Court TV was up 39 percent year to year in total prime time viewing, from 873,000 to 1.2 million viewers to rank as the 15th-most-viewed cable network for the quarter. It was up 25 percent in weekday daytime viewing, although daytime viewers appeared to be about six years older and its audience was about one-sixth the size of prime time.

The network’s main target, its executives said, is males 35 to 45 — a demographic it called “real engagers,” for their preference toward real-life subjects. But the shows shouldn’t be considered “reality,” they added, because they’re all based in truth, unlike the manufactured, celebrity-laced fare we’ve come to know as reality TV.”

The renamed network will also rev up its original programming output from 250 to 300 hours but add just a handful of new shows to start, with subjects including daredevil pilots (“Sky Racers”), high-stakes con artists (“The Real Hustle”) and racing oil prospectors (“Black Gold”).

A multimillion-dollar consumer marketing campaign, which starts Thursday, will reinforce the notion that there’s “more great stuff to love, rather than anything being taken away,” said Court TV’s General Manager Mark Juris.

Paging Dr. House

“House” star Hugh Laurie made an unexpected request for time off from the show Thursday, forcing the Fox hit to shake up its filming schedule.

According to Zap2it.com, Mr. Laurie returned to his native England Thursday afternoon to tend to family matters, read a statement from Universal Media Studios, which produces the show. Hollywood being Hollywood, though, the actor’s request set tongues wagging as to whether Mr. Laurie was somehow unhappy with the show, his salary or anything else, the show biz trade papers say.

Not so, according to both the studio and Mr. Laurie’s own publicist. The star is expected back on set next week, his representative told entertainment trade publications.

“House,” meanwhile, has gone through some on-screen changes this season, as the doctor has been auditioning a new team after dumping his old one at the end of last season. It’s still a big hit, though, averaging better than 19 million viewers per week this season.

‘Ride,’ Cribs’ roll on

Independent syndicator Litton Entertainment says it’s making two MTV series — “Cribs” and “Pimp My Ride”— available to broadcast stations for a fall 2008 start in syndication, notes the Hollywood Reporter.

“Cribs” is a take on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” giving viewers a look inside celebrity homes, while “Pimp My Ride” features extreme makeovers of automobiles.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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