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Judge Judy settles out of court

Sheindlin comes to terms with Big Ticket TV

A potential TV courtroom standoff has been averted now that Judy Sheindlin, aka Judge Judy, apparently has come to terms on a contract renegotiation with Big Ticket Television, the producer of her top-rated syndie courtshow strip.

Word surfaced over the weekend that Sheindlin was threatening to not return to the show unless she was given a participation stake. Production of “Judge Judy,” now on a skedded hiatus, resumes at the end of April.

Sheindlin could not be reached for comment Monday. A rep for Big Ticket prexy Larry Lyttle said the firm “has a contract” with Sheindlin, but he refused to comment on specifics of the negotiation. Sheindlin was expected to wing from New York to Los Angeles today to finalize the agreement.

Syndie-biz observers noted that Sheindlin is her own best bargaining chip in any contract renegotiation, as the feisty femme’s indomitable personality, sharp tongue and no-nonsense approach to TV justice have fueled the success of the show. Sheindlin logged 20 years as a Manhattan family court judge before a 1995 appearance on “60 Minutes” landed her a TV deal with Big Ticket.

“Judge Judy” got off to a slow start in 1996, but has blossomed over the past 18 months into a bona fide smash, surpassing even Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer on the Nielsen chart in recent weeks. That eye-popping growth has allowed Big Ticket and distrib Worldvision to command high-priced renewal deals with stations as well as higher coin from advertisers.

Once those deals kick in this fall, syndie vets project the strip could easily generate $50 million or more in annual revenue for Big Ticket, a unit of Spelling Entertainment. Big Ticket and the rest of the Spelling fold is about to be absorbed by Viacom’s Paramount TV Group under a stock buyout deal unveiled last week.

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