Court TV is acting as if it believes in psychics.
Of all the new shows the network launched this year, the unlikely sounding “Psychic Detectives” was the best performer. And after two years of concentrating on its signature show, “Forensic Files,” it will make “Psychic Detectives” the first program to get a marketing and ad sales push of its own, including a gathering of more than 100 psychics at the headquarters of Time Warner Inc., one of Court TV’s parents.
During each quarter Court TV plans a programming stunt built around one of its newer offerings. After “Psychic Detective” this quarter, the network will showcase “Masterminds” during the fourth quarter, “Impossible Heists” during the first quarter of 2005 and “The Chase: Trackdown” in the second quarter.
“We did several campaigns around `Forensic Files,’ and you know what? They worked,” said Art Bell, president of Court TV, which has been seeking a younger audience and billing itself during prime time as “The Investigation Channel.” “People say, `Hey, Court TV equals “Forensic Files.”‘ That’s good. Now we want them to see that Court TV is more than `Forensics Files,’ and that we have individual shows that pop,” he said.
In addition to its ratings-“Psychic Detectives” averaged a 1.2 Nielsen Media Research household rating and a 0.5 rating among adults 18 to 49-Mr. Bell said the show is important because it’s so different. “This is pretty much on the other end of the spectrum in terms of investigation,” he said. “It’s not just courtroom coverage; it’s not just what you’d expect from Court TV.”
Court TV is expected to go to even greater lengths to attract young viewers when its new general manager, Marc Juris, joins the operation in November from the music network Fuse.
Each episode of “Psychic Detectives” focuses on a real-life case in which local law enforcement authorities ‘have enlisted a psychic to help them solve a crime. In each, the psychic somehow guides investigators to new clues that help solve the case.
The show appeals to viewers because “People want to believe there’s something beyond the numbers and the math and the physical sciences, and we see that manifested in many ways,” Mr. Bell said. “Seeing a person who believes they’re psychic actually helping law enforcement actually solve cases, that’s a very compelling show.”
Mr. Bell adds that the dramatic moment in each episode comes when the crusty, cynical detective declares, “I don’t know how they did it, but they helped us solve this case.” “That’s a very strong dramatic moment in storytelling,” he said.
Court TV’s push starts this week with Psychic Detectives Week. Episodes of the show will air each night at 9:30 p.m., following “Forensics Files.” The season premiere will be Sept. 22, with the new episode followed by two reruns and then a special at 11 p.m. hosted by Nancy Grace that looks at psychics who work with law enforcement.
Psychic Detectives Week is being supported by a multimillion-dollar ad campaign using cross-channel spots, radio and print. The campaign aims to reach younger viewers and includes significant in-theater and online promotional elements. On CourtTV.com, a contest offers viewers a chance to gather clues and solve a mystery. The winner gets a Subaru Outback.
Subaru is one of three sponsors for Psychic Detectives Week, along with KFC and Cookies& M&Ms. The sponsors get branded vignettes and tune-in spots on Court TV, in addition to lower-third graphics on-screen during the show during the promotion.
Court TV will do similar promotion and ad packages for its other shows. It has signed Ben Mezrich to host the “Mastermind” marathon next quarter. Mr. Mezrich wrote
“Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions,” an account of how a group of MIT students beat Las Vegas casinos out of more than $4 million.
Mr. Bell wouldn’t say whether he personally believes in psychics. “I think that whether you believe or you don’t believe you certainly see the evidence in the stories,” he said.
How about hiring a psychic to help pick hit shows?
“That’s an excellent idea,” he said.