Time Warner Buys Court TV for $735 Mil

May 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Time Warner has agreed to acquire the 50 percent of Court TV it doesn’t already own from Liberty Media for $735 million, the companies said Friday.

Court TV will operate as part of Turner Broadcasting System, reporting to Turner Entertainment Group President Mark Lazarus, who is based in Atlanta.

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. Lazarus and Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting, said Court TV will retain its format of trial coverage during the day and entertainment programming at night, and the network will remain based in New York.

Some departments, including human resources and corporate communications, will become part of Turner’s operations, but Mr. Kent said it was unclear how many jobs will be lost due to redundancies.

Court TV may share some acquired entertainment programming with Turner’s entertainment networks, TNT and TBS, although, “We don’t have anything earmarked to move,” Mr. Lazarus said. The networks will also engage in cross-marketing and promotion, he said.

In some cases, when both Turner-owned CNN and Court TV cover trials, some resources might be able to be pooled, Mr. Lazarus said. The networks might use separate correspondents to retain their individual brands.

As reported earlier, Henry Schleiff will step down as CEO of Court TV (TVWeek.com, May 3). He will continue as nonexecutive chairman through the end of the year.

Mr. Lazarus said that he expects Art Bell to stay on as president and Marc Juris as general manager of programming and entertainment.

Charlie Collier, executive VP and general manager of ad sales, will work with David Levy, president of ad sales for Turner Entertainment.

During the upfront, “We’re going to work client by client and figure out the best way to work with each product and sell product to them they find valuable,” Mr. Lazarus said.

Mr. Schleiff said becoming part of Turner is in the best interest of Court TV.

“It’s impossible to remain an independent out there,” he said, because of a lack of leverage with distributors and a lack of recognition by advertisers.

“We’ve taken it as far as we could,” he said. “Being a part of a larger group is essential to taking the next step. Court TV has a bright future.”

Mr. Schleiff said he does not know how many positions will be lost through consolidation when Court TV becomes part of Turner.

Mr. Schleiff is leaving, he said, in part because he will now have less control over functions including affiliate relations and ad sales.

He was reporting to Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner president and chief operating officer, but will now report to Mr. Lazarus.

After joining Court TV in 1998, Mr. Schleiff saw distribution grow from 30 million to 86 million households, while viewership rose from 400,000 to 700,000 households and the value of the network climbed from $300 million to almost $1.5 billion.

Under his contract, Mr. Schleiff gets a percentage of the network’s appreciation, but he declined to say how much.

“They’ve been very generous along the way,” he said.