Court order at hand

TW to offer strategic plan for Court TV

NEW YORK — Time Warner will present Court TV’s management with a strategic plan for growth in about two weeks, the company said Monday, which, for some Court TV staffers, won’t come a minute too soon.

When NBC agreed to sell its stake in Court TV three months ago — making Time Warner and Liberty Media Corp. 50-50 partners — the cable web’s staffers were hopeful they’d get a strategy to execute by the middle of July.

For Court TV, the couple of years preceding the May deal (Daily Variety, May 27) were marked by bickering among its owners over the channel’s direction. This infighting resulted in insufficient funding for the network.

This summer, four department heads have left the cabler and have not been replaced. Because other staffers have also departed, 15-20 positions remain open in the affiliate sales, ad sales and marketing departments.

Among the recently departed Court TV executives: Erik Sorenson, executive VP of programming; Deborah Hackenberry, veepee of research; Rob Golden, senior veep of business development; Lynn Rosenstrach, VP of public affairs; and Stephanie Grossman, veepee of ad sales.

The Time Warner spokesman declined to reveal any details of its plan for Court TV, but said, “The direction the network is going will be addressed in the next couple of weeks.”

Still waiting

A spokeswoman for Court TV said the web is still waiting for plans from its owners, and she was unaware that Time Warner would in two weeks disclose a new strategic direction for the cabler.

Six weeks ago, Court TV management submitted its own strategic plan for growth, but it has received no response.

The Court TV proposal included plans to develop law-related documentaries and to purchase movies in the crime-and-punishment genre to boost ratings in primetime, which are among the lowest of all the cable networks monitored by Nielsen Media Research.

Through all of Court TV’s turmoil, the channel’s affiliates have stuck by it; over the last two years, Court TV has actually increased its distribution, which stands at 35 million subscribers.

However, Cablevision Systems in New York City recently dropped Court TV from full-time to part-time in nearly 500,000 homes.

“Court TV’s ownership has not given its management any direction, even though it was promised,” said one Court TV insider. “We’re out there idling. The danger here is that in a very competitive arena, Court TV is vulnerable.”

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