Judge Judy Sells Her Library Back to CBS in Massive Deal

Judge Judy Shopping Her Old Reruns for $200 Million  -Illustration by Læmeur -H 2017
Illustration by Læmeur

Judge Judy has found a familiar home.

CBS TV Distribution on Tuesday announced that it has acquired the Judge Judy library from creator and star Judith Sheindlin. The pricey pact gives CBS the rights to over 5,200 hours of current and library programs, as well as future episodes of the top-rated daytime franchise. Additionally, CBS got Sheindlin, who makes a cool $47 million a year, to agree to churn out another season of the series, taking it through the 2020-21 season.

In February, The Hollywood Reporter first reported that Sheindlin, with the aid of former Bear Stearns banker turned Barron International Group CEO Lisbeth R. Barron, was shopping her own library for as much as $200 million, looking to prove wrong a long-held theory that there is little to no aftermarket for such syndicated shows. Though terms of the CBS deal were not disclosed, it’s unlikely that the company paid anywhere near that price tag.

As part of her most recent contract negotiation, Sheindlin had gotten those library rights as well as her jaw-dropping eight-figure salary. Via Barron, she had approached a mix of studios, station groups, distributors and deep-pocketed individuals. The pitch, per multiple sources who heard it: TV stations — those that currently air Judge Judy originals as well as their competitors — will be salivating for anything Judy once the first-run episodes conclude in 2020 (as initially planned). Plus, the No. 1 court show has yet to be exploited in much of the streaming, cable or global marketplace.

The sale, even if it is to her original home, speaks to Sheindlin’s unique place in the marketplace. While a series of other pricey talk shows — from Meredith to Queen Latifah — have come and gone, Judge Judy still averages more than 10 million daily viewers in its 21st season; and in 2014, Sheindlin launched another top performer in Hot Bench. For CBS, procuring new episodes of Judge Judy through the 2019-20 season was not simply a priority but a necessity.