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Judge Joe Brown hasn’t delivered his final ruling just yet.
In the wake of a four-year renewal of America’s No. 1 court show, Judge Judy, announced Monday, the host of Judge Joe Brown is making it clear that he will not take his gavel and disappear now that his show has been canceled because of what he charges was “Hollywood trick economics.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Brown says he has formed a new company and intends to launch both a new court show and a talk show that he will host as early as fall 2014. He also is launching a daily radio program and says he is developing numerous other shows.
CBS Television Distribution produces and distributes Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown, which ranks as No. 2 in the ratings out of more than a dozen legal and court programs.
Judge Joe Brown comes to an end in May after 15 seasons because Brown could not reach an agreement with CBS on a new contract. There were widespread reports that the deal could not be concluded because of a “salary disagreement,” with CBS seeking to cut Brown’s compensation because ratings are down for his show.
But Brown says that there was no salary disagreement because he has not gotten a salary for the past seven years. He says that his deal was for a split of revenue with CBS. The problem, he says, came in defining how the money was to be split and how much in fees the distributor would get. “Hollywood trick economics and accounting will show something a little less,” charges Brown, “because they take a great deal out of it.”
Brown says some of the money his show made was plowed into the development of other CBS shows — including a court show with Nancy Grace — most of which, he says, “flopped.”
“The truth of the matter is, they didn’t offer me a reduction in salary,” Brown tells THR. “They actually were offering me [improved terms] of a 50-50 split with them. The issue basically was the adjustments to gross income.”
By that, Brown means how CBS accounts for the revenue and the fees it takes to cover its costs, distribution and other fees.
Brown says his current show grosses about $100 million a year. CBS declined to comment, but a syndication source says that $100 million figure seems high.
When Brown signed his last contract in 2010, he says he believed it meant he would be entitled to about $20 million a year. He says he never has received more than about $5 million a year.
“After I signed my contract with them for three years,” says Brown, “the week it was to go into effect they changed the categories and definitions. If you do it the way it was supposed to be done, you get awfully close to $20 million. When you change the categories and definitions, you come out with about $5 million.”
Adding insult to injury, Brown says, at the same time CBS Inc. was reporting record results for the company and for the division that includes its distribution arm, company executives were “telling everyone from camera crews to talent … that money was tight and everybody would have to take a cut and bite the bullet.”
In his negotiations, Brown recalls, “I looked at them and said: ‘You’ve got to be kidding. You’re telling me you’re broke, and you want me to take an IOU for what you owe me already. I think you guys have lost it.’”
Brown has other complaints. He says CTD put Judge Judy on top stations and combined multiple airings to come up with its ratings (a common practice). His show, he says, is mostly on lesser stations, gets only a handful of extra runs each day and has not received as much promotion as he believes was required.
All of the court shows are down in the ratings from last year, but Judge Judy has fared the best. For the current season to date compared with the 2011-12 season, it is off only 1 percent. By comparison, The People’s Court is down 17 percent, Judge Mathis is down 12 percent, Judge Alex is down 26 percent, and America’s Court With Judge Ross is down 29 percent.
Judge Joe Brown is down 16 percent with a 2.4 household rating (an average of about 3.3 million viewers a day) and a 1.1 rating in the key females 25-to-54 demographic.
For the season to date, Judge Judy has a 7.2 household rating (an average of about 10 million viewers a day) and a 3.7 rating in the key women 35-to-54 demo.
During the recent February sweep, Judge Judy’s rating of 7.5 was the same as the previous February. Judge Brown’s rating during the sweep was down 17 percent compared with the previous year.
Fox has made no decision on how to fill the Judge Joe Brown slot on its stations. CBS offered the Fox stations a new show featuring Judge Geoffrey Gaither of Marion County, Ind., but Fox declined.
Some stations already are filling the hole. Byron Allen, CEO of Entertainment Studios, which has three court shows and another coming in the fall, says when news broke March 28 that Judge Joe Brown was canceled, it was “phenomenal for us.” Since then, his company has booked its newest court show, Supreme Justice With Judge Karen, on a Belo station in Tucson, Ariz.; and added repeat runs in Charlotte, N.C., on a Cox station for America’s Court With Judge Ross and We the People With Gloria Allred. He says there will be other pickups and upgrades.
Even as he has formed a new company, which is based in Milwaukee and called Celebritunity, Brown — who has homes in Memphis, Los Angeles and Aspen, Colo. — says he also is considering offers to get involved in politics, which could include a run for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. He was elected judge in Tennessee by wide margins before turning to TV.
Meanwhile, Celebritunity, which he has personally financed so far (while seeking investors), has developed a new court show for him to front (which he intends to produce in Miami) and a talk show he will host. He and his business partners say they are launching a daily three-hour radio talk show called Real Talks With Judge Joe Brown.
Brown says they also are developing a court show around former San Diego Superior Court Judge DeAnn Salcido; a show called Bodyguard Wars; a show in which high-profile athletes in a financial bind get help; and a show to be done with the Miami Police Department to help teach young people better values and to “reform the community so it is more law-abiding.”
Brown said he also is getting into business with Wesley Snipes, who recently was released from prison and is under house arrest until July 19. Brown says his company will be involved with Snipes in both movies and television.
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