Vinnie Politan leading revival of Court TV

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Originally posted Monday, December 10, 2018 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Vinnie Politan recently left 11Alive with no explanation. Now we know why: he will be returning home to be lead anchor for a revival of Court TV.

Atlanta-based Katz Broadcasting, part of E.W. Scripps, purchased the intellectual property of Court TV from Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting including the trademark, website and complete, original 100,000-hour Court TV library.

“This was by far the best fit that could keep me in town and do what I love,” said Politan, a former lawyer and prosecutor. “It’s really full circle. The last time I felt this excited was when I got the call from Court TV the last time.”

The network said it will offer live, gavel-to-gavel coverage, in-depth legal reporting and expert analysis of the nation's most important and compelling trials.

Court TV will re-launch in May 2019 and be offered to cable, streaming over the air and satellite services. The network already has commitments that will cover about 50 percent of U.S. television households at launch, with cable carriage of 25 percent of U.S. cable homes. There is no home yet in Atlanta but the company expects to find one before launch date.

Court TV debuted in 1991 and over the years covered some of the biggest cases such as O.J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers and Casey Anthony.

Politan was a key piece of the Court TV puzzle back in the day so bringing him back was a no brainer for Katz.

"Vinnie is a smart, seasoned and insightful journalist who takes his responsibility to viewers very seriously," said Jonathan Katz, president and CEO of Katz Broadcasting. "He brings immediate credibility to the anchor desk and is the right person to lead the charge of the new Court TV."

And who knows? This might lure Atlanta-based Nancy Grace (now on Sirius/XM) back to TV.

While there are now entire networks devoted to crime-related programming including ID, Oxygen and the Justice Network,  Court TV will fill in a hole in coverage:  a focus on live trials.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” Politan said. “People come up to me all the time to talk about Court TV.”

And with social media now the norm, he said interaction with fans will be far greater than it was when Court TV was popular.

With five months to prepare for launch, Politan said he will be training a lot of the new staff about legal journalism and how to cover live trials. And he’s excited to see how Court TV will use all the old Court TV footage for future documentaries and shows.

“It will be interesting to dust off some of those discs and tapes and see what I looked like back in the day,” he said.

Turner Broadcasting eliminated Court TV about 11 years ago and gradually cut actual judicial-based coverage when it became truTV, now a full-time comedy-based cable network. Some of Court TV’s programming eventually migrated to Turner sister station HLN but live court coverage is no longer part of HLN’s modus operandi though HLN does air some crime-oriented shows.

Katz used to work at Turner Broadcasting. His company’s most successful network is Bounce TV, which pulls in solid numbers from African-American households. Katz founded the company in 2014 and sold it to Scripps in 2017.

Katz, who approached Turner about Court TV's intellectual assets, noted that the network was still immensely popular when Turner took it off air and the appetite for this type of programming continues to grow. He said the brand remains iconic after all these years. 
"We believe the timing is perfect to reboot Court TV and fill that gap for consumers," Katz wrote. "We plan to make the new Court TV the Gold Standard in legal journalism – providing Americans with transparency into the U.S. courts system, delivering real life drama as it unfolds in the courtroom and telling compelling stories based on events in the criminal justice system that aren't being told in any other medium today."

Bob Thompson, who runs the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said Court TV may face more competition than it did in the 1990s but at the same time, he thinks the fans of the original network will seek it out. "I'm excited to see how they'll use all that old Court TV footage," he said. "It's not exactly the MGM or Disney library, but there is some hot stuff there."

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