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Court TV Exits, TruTV Appears

  Entertainment  -   POSTED: 2007/12/31 13:50

The network that burst into public consciousness with the O.J. Simpson trial and other big-name courtroom dramas in the 1990s becomes part of television history Tuesday, renamed truTV to emphasize its prime-time action programming.

Besides the name, there won't be many immediate changes to what Court TV has become. The six remaining hours of legal-oriented material during the day will remain, labeled "In Session."

The Tuesday premiere of "Ocean Force Huntington Beach O.C." typifies the network's direction. The series follows lifeguards on a busy California beach, emphasizing heart-pounding rescues rather than hours spent ogling hot bodies.

That's about as far from swearing in a witness as you can get, but Court TV's viewers are used to the disconnect.

Court TV prime-time has emphasized non-fiction series like the long-running "Forensic Files" and newer shows like "The Real Hustle," which interviews pickpockets about tricks of the trade; the upcoming "Black Gold," about oil prospectors; and "Speeders," which shows tapes of people trying to talk their way out of speeding tickets.

That's part of an intensely competitive television world; "Black Gold" taps into the same fascination with grueling jobs as "Deadliest Catch" on Discovery and "Ice Road Truckers" on The History Channel, for example.

Now the network takes the risk of shedding an established brand for the unknown.

"It's a big concern," conceded Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, which includes the soon-to-become truTV. "Court TV is a very well-defined programming entity. Unfortunately, it's not as broad and doesn't offer the growth opportunities, we believe, as starting anew."

Koonin oversaw the successful brandings of TNT and TBS. Those networks established clear identities — TNT is for drama, TBS does comedy — while keeping names that are essentially meaningless.

TruTV's identity will be fast-moving programming that tells real stories about real people. There's such a glut of reality programming with a wide range of styles that truTV is making an explicit point of rejecting the term.


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