Court TV's $20 mil effort pitches individual shows

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Backed by a new $20 million marketing campaign, Court TV enters this year's upfront season ready to seek what it believes is advertising justice.

A new marketing theme will be revealed in the coming weeks for the 9-year-old network: "Judgment days and sleepless nights," which will replace the network's current "Inside crime and justice."

The network will keep its logo, however, consisting of a thumb-print behind the initials "TV." Court TV's ad agency is Griffin Bacal, New York.

The marketing push revolves around specific shows. For instance, one print ad shows ice skating competitors Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, staring hard at each other, with the tagline: "Icy looks. The heat of competition. And cold, hard justice." This is to promote an episode on "Crime Stories," Court TV's weekday hourlong 10 p.m. ET documentary series.

HEAVY PRINT COMPONENT

Dan Levinson, exec VP-marketing for Court TV, said there'll will also be a heavy print campaign in a wide number of magazines, including Better Homes & Gardens, Entertainment Weekly, Jet, Ladies' Home Journal, Newsweek and People. They will also run in law enforcement publications. Although Court TV will be using its own airtime for its TV promo spots, it will also run outdoor advertising.

Court TV, now with more than 40 million subscribers, has seen rocketing ratings over the last year -- up more than 400%, resulting in an average Nielsen rating of 0.58 during the prime-time hours of 8-11 p.m.

Advertisers who bought the network during last year's upfront market, in fact, took a chance and gained big time, the network claims. "We overdelivered on every single one of our prime-time shows," said Gig Barton, exec VP-advertising sales for Court TV.

Even so, the network hasn't received ad support from a wide range of advertisers. Mr. Barton said the automobile, high-tech, and telecommunications categories are all under-represented, adding, "We need to improve in some structural areas like getting to the right decision-makers."

GRITTY PROGRAMMING

Because of the gritty nature of its network -- crime programming -- advertisers in previous years stayed away from the network.

"It's not quite the best environment for some advertisers," said Tim Spengler, senior VP-general manager of national broadcast for Initiative Media North America, Los Angeles. "With real small numbers, you need a real great audience. [Now] they have a little more broad audience and will probably become more viable."

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