CBS Cancels 'Judge Joe Brown' Amid Salary Dispute

4:07 PM PST 03/26/2013 by Alex Ben Block

With ratings for the 15-year-old syndicated court show dipping, negotiations on a new deal break down.

Judge Joe Brown, the second highest-rated court show in television syndication after Judge Judy, has been canceled by CBS Television Distribution.

“We would like to thank Joe for 15 great years,” CTD said in a statement, “as well as executive producer John Terenzio and the entire staff for all their hard work and dedication to the show."

The cancellation comes after negotiations on a new contract broke down, apparently over Brown’s salary. He reportedly has been making $20 million a year, but CTD was looking to trim his compensation in line with a decline in his ratings.

In the recent February sweeps, Judge Brown had a 2.5 household rating, down 17 percent from the prior February. He attracted an average of 3.4 million daily viewers, down from an average of 4.1 million last February. In the key demographic for a daytime show, which is women 25-54, Brown had a 1.1 rating, down 15 percent from a year earlier.

The most recent week for national ratings, reported Tuesday, had Judge Brown pulling a 2.1 household rating, down 16 percent from the prior week and 19 percent from the same week a year ago.  

To be fair, all of the court shows have seen declines of as much as 20 percent this season -- with the exception of Judge Judy who remains number one by a wide margin. She averaged a 7.5 household rating in February, about 10.5 million viewers a day.

Judge Brown has been second to Judge Judy in the ratings for the past 739 weeks, and both are distributed by CTD. But the decline in his ratings have hurt what they can charge for advertising, so CTD wanted to pare his salary, says sources.

Judge Brown plays on the Fox owned TV stations in many major markets and on stations owned by Sinclair, Lin and others. CTD had discussions with Fox about replacing Judge Brown with a new show that would be fronted by Indiana Judge Geoffrey Gaither, but Fox declined to make the swap.

At this point, Judge Brown is scheduled to run in original and repeat episodes on the Fox owned stations until September, when they will have the opportunity to reprogram his time periods.

Judge Brown may not be done yet. He has met with Byron Allen of Entertainment Studios about continuing his show. Allen’s Entertainment Studios has a line up of court shows that includes America’s Court with Judge Ross, We The People With Gloria Allred and Justice for All with Judge Christna Perez. Allen’s shows play in syndication first and then play on a company owned digital cable channel. However, it appears unlikely Entertainment Studios could pay as much as Brown has been getting under his CTD pact, according to a source.  

Judge Brown first went on the air in 1998. Before that, he was a real life criminal courts judge in Shelby County, Tennessee. He started his career as a lawyer and was the first African American prosecutor in Memphis, Tennessee earlier in his career.

Brown won fame when as the real judge in Shelby County, Tennessee, he presided over the appeal of James Earl Ray, who murdered Martin Luther King Jr. Brown was later removed from that case over charges of bias but by then he had caught the eye of the same producers and distributors behind Judge Judy.

Both Judge Brown and Judge Judy are produced in the same Hollywood facility, with courtrooms adjacent to each other. Both are produced by Big Ticket Television, a division of CBS, and distributed by CBS’s CTD.

Brown wasn’t the first African American to be a TV judge but he has become the longest running.

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