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Court TV Intros a Saturday ‘Solution’ to Engage Viewers

Aug 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Court TV next month will roll out a new prime-time Saturday lineup the cable channel hopes will attract younger audiences and comply with advertisers’ request that programming get closer to viewers.
On Sept. 6 the network will introduce the “Saturday Night Solution,” a hosted three-hour block of investigation-themed programming that will integrate advertisers into a slate of shows that includes “Forensic Files” and “I, Detective” and movies with an investigation-oriented plot.
“We’ve listened to what the advertisers are asking for,” said Charlie Collier, executive VP of advertising sales at Court TV. “They are saying, `Get me closer to the content. Get me outside of the pod.’ The first thing we did was in-program sponsorships-that line at the bottom of the screen that says, `This information is brought to you by …’ This is the next step.”
The Saturday night programming will be akin to TBS’s “Dinner & a Movie” in format, in which hosts Kristen Eykel and Dave Holmes will introduce the evening’s lineup as well as provide information, educational tools and conduct games based on a particular Saturday’s theme. Ms. Eykel has been featured on NBC’s “Just Shoot Me” and CBS’s “Martial Law,” while Mr. Holmes is a former host of several MTV programs.
Advertisers, meanwhile, will get the opportunity to sponsor events or themes that are featured during the block. The hosts might even spotlight features of an advertiser’s product between broadcasts of the programs.
“Throughout the interstitials, the hosts will impart knowledge, which allows the advertiser to get more involved,” Mr. Collier said, citing as an example a sponsored night on fingerprint analysis.
“We want a sticky audience, a lean-forward audience,” he said, adding that he is hopeful that Ms. Eykel and Mr. Holmes’ rapport will keep viewers from changing the channel during commercials.
The entire effort is tied to Court TV’s push for a hipper, younger audience as the cable channel seeks to strengthen the momentum it has had in building audience over the past few years. In the past four years the network has seen its household ratings grow 125 percent to nearly a 1 rating from 0.4 in 1999.
It also comes as Court TV extends its brand beyond covering trials and focuses on programming about crime investigations, including a month-long, $5 million promotion effort that starts Aug. 25 and features seven days of premieres of new and returning series that have a forensics focus.
The network is also launching a forensics-oriented Web site (www.forensics-tv.com) that will have games, episode guides and a virtual forensics lab.
It’s a switch from five years ago, when Court TV was available in 30 million homes and covered trials day and night.

Today the network has a hit with “Forensic Files,” a household reach of 80 million and, thanks to its focus on criminal investigation, is breaching the 1-rating threshold.
Mr. Collier thinks the move toward hip and young with “Saturday Night Solution” will bolster the cable channel’s efforts, particularly with advertisers.
Indeed, while Court TV now attracts a demo of adults 25 to 54 with a slight weight toward female viewers, Mr. Collier is hoping the new programming will lure adults 25 to 49, with an equal balance of males and females.
“A lot of our experience on the network is going to have a feel that is indeed supportive of that audience,” Mr. Collier said. “The quick vignettes, the dynamic between the hosts. Our hope is that it’s good television, and thus good for marketing.”
However, Mr. Collier stressed that Court TV will not abandon its roots in trial coverage, which generates strong advertising dollars for the network from industries such as telecommunications and pharmaceuticals.