Court TV Morphs Into TruTV

Time Warner Rebranding Reflects Shift to Reality Fare

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NEW YORK ( -- The verdict is in, and Court TV's new name as of Jan. 1, 2008, will be ... TruTV. As Court TV General Manager Marc Juris announced at the Turner entertainment upfront presentation in March, the network's rebranding has been in the pipeline for several months.
The fingerprint logo will be history starting in January.
The fingerprint logo will be history starting in January.

Fourth-quarter rollout
Turner Entertainment President Steve Koonin said an official rebranding campaign for the network will begin to roll out in fourth quarter, likely around Oct. 1, with a heavy push kicking in around the holidays.

Renaming the established network was a tricky process that ultimately led Mr. Koonin and his team to examine the five letters in the word "court." After spelling the last three letters backwards ("T-R-U"), he was led to the possibility of "Tru TV," which was tested against its more traditional Webster's spelling with viewers and came out on top.

"It's a wink and nod to the past," Mr. Koonin said. "You always have to let the viewer pick."

Content shift
Since being acquired by Time Warner in May 2006, Court TV has undergone a major shift in both programming and infrastructure, losing CEO-Chairman Henry Schleiff to the same position at Hallmark Channel, ad-sales chief Charlie Collier leaving to become GM at Rainbow Media's AMC and research exec Debbie Reichig now reporting to Beth Comstock at NBC Universal.

On the content side, the network has also taken a gradual step away from its breaking news coverage and cops-and-courts fare to more reality-based shows such as "Forensic Files" and John Waters' "Til Death Do Us Part." Forthcoming shows include "Ski Patrol," a reality series about high-stakes life on the slopes; "Black Gold," an oil-rig series from the producers of Discovery's "Deadliest Catch"; and a new daily talk show from ex-"View" host Star Jones premiering Aug. 20.

'Real engagers'
In the age of YouTube and "you" being Time magazine's Person of the Year, Mr. Koonin considers his audience to be "real engagers," and will seek out programming that "speaks to the people." He said user-generated content could also start appearing on network and online.

Early reaction in the buying community sparked curiosity, if not instant approval, of the new moniker. One buyer said, "I'm checking my calendar now to make sure it's not really April 1."

Higher visibility
"I guess it's better than False TV," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-director of research at Horizon. "They have the wherewithal at getting the word out. Quality shows have been running on Court TV for years, [and the Turner acquisition] has helped boost their ratings to higher visibility in the TV landscape."

Shari Anne Brill, Carat's VP-programming, added, "They seem to have a very clear vision of what the new brand will be and who their audience to the network will also be. I look forward to seeing the vision come to life when the channel launches."

Cable networks rebranding themselves under new names or ownership is hardly new. When Viacom acquired TNN (The Nashville Network) in 2000, it rechristened the channel as The National Network for three years before switching to Spike TV in 2003, complete with a new target of males 18 to 34. More recently, Comcast changed the name of its Outdoor Living Network to Versus, with a focus on hockey and nontraditional sports coverage to serve as an alternative to ESPN.
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