New episode production to begin later this year

Twentieth Television’s first local roll-out experiment under the leadership of prexy/chief operations officer Bob Cook worked as planned. The Fox syndie arm has set up a national lineup starting in January for half-hour weekday gaveler “Texas Justice,” which was launched regionally earlier this year.

Deals for gaveler “Texas Justice,” presided over by Houston lawman Larry Joe Doherty, are in place on stations repping coverage of 53% of the country.

The Fox TV Stations are all on board, including those in the top three markets, as well as the nine Fox stations involved in the regional test.

Stations from the Cox, ACME, Belo, Raycom and Capitol groups also have signed on.

Freebie for stations

In an unusual twist in Twentieth’s pitch for the show, stations that sign for an 87-week term from January 2002 to September 2003 are being offered a free, four-month run of the show.

From September-December 2001, station clients can air the 70 shows produced for the regional test without paying cash license fees or giving up any barter ad time.

Only 45 of the shows in the can have aired on the nine Fox stations that were part of the test run. The remaining 35 episodes will provide fresh episodes for that handful of stations to use during the important November ratings sweep.

Come January, cash license fees will kick in, and Twentieth will reserve 1.5 minutes of national barter ad time, while stations get 5.5 minutes for local ads.

Production on new episodes will begin later this year for the national launch in January.

Twentieth’s exec veep and general sales manager Paul Franklin said the studio is able to offer the freebie episodes specifically because the show was tested locally first.

“Stations obviously find the scenario attractive,” Franklin said. “They like the show, they love the judge, and in a tough economic climate, they have the opportunity to get the show for free. That helps us get great time periods on great stations.”

Kathryn Seigel Levine, who formerly exec produced “Forgive or Forget” for Twentieth, is exec producing “Texas Justice.”

Skein will continue to be produced out of Fox’s KRIV Houston by Schrodinger’s Cat Prods. in association with Twentieth Television.

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