Trial Coverage Evolves on Court TV

Mar 28, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Court TV plans to evolve its on-air daytime coverage of trials over the next year based on lessons from its quiet but growing online experiment.

The network is beta testing on its Web site a service that allows viewers to choose from two or three different trials at any given time and watch them uninterrupted and commercial-free.

The online experiment, dubbed Extra, also has demonstrated to the network that it can cover more trials on-air in new and different ways. While Court TV will still rely on its “trial trackers” to determine which trials viewers will be most interested in watching on-air, the online venture will help inform how they get covered.

“There is a growing awareness that [Extra] gives us a flexibility we didn’t have before,” said Galen Jones, executive VP and chief strategy officer for the network. “[We will] evolve our on-air programming to have more freedom to move between multiple trials in a single day,” he said.

The change is also being influenced by the way Court TV covered the Scott Peterson murder trial late last year after cameras were prohibited in the courtroom. The network had to be creative in its coverage and made the trial commentary a mainstay of its programming, but also moved back and forth between coverage of other trials.

“It was unusual that we were moving around between stories in a way we don’t normally do, and when you put that together with Extra it will make a difference in how we program daytime as we go forward,” Mr. Jones said. Extra gives the network more freedom on-air, since viewers who are highly interested in a particular trial now can watch it in its entirety online, he said.

As it adapts its programming approach, Court TV must consider how often it can break away from a trial on-air to cover other news or another trial, or go to a commercial.

“Just as the network is gaining experience covering multiple trials, we are developing an extended news organization and the capabilities to be in more than one space at a time,” Mr. Jones said.

Court TV has been testing Extra for more than six months and has attracted about 60,000 registered users so far for the service.