Chauvin trial puts Court TV's revival in the public eye

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In this image taken from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson questions witness Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist as Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill presides Thursday, April 8, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

NEW YORK – Scott Tufts believes the media world is not complete without Court TV. If he's ever going to prove his point, now is the time.

The television executive is behind the network's 2019 revival and, since he began working last fall to convince Minnesota authorities to televise Derek Chauvin's trial, has seen the case as an opportunity to let more people know that Court TV is back.

Early returns are encouraging: The network says the number of live streams of Court TV programming during the first week of the former Minneapolis police officer's trial for the murder of George Floyd was 20 times what it was pre-trial.

“When you say Court TV, everyone knows who you are,” said Tufts, the network's senior vice president. “But when you launch a new network, people have to find you.”

Originally started by journalist Steven Brill in 1991, Court TV became known for coverage of sensational trials involving O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers. But then-corporate owner Time Warner changed it to Tru TV in 2008, believing a broader-based entertainment network would have more appeal.

Tufts, who has been involved in legal programming since producing CNN's “Burden of Proof” in the 1990s, believed owners gave up too soon. He never lost faith in Court TV as a concept and tried to convince media companies to bring it back. Katz Broadcasting, a subsidiary of the E.W. Scripps Co., agreed to try.

Similarly, some of the people who worked on Court TV yearned for their own chance to return, said Michael Ayala. He was a reporter for Court TV in the 1990s, left to work at CBS stations in Chicago and Washington, and is now back as a Court TV anchor. Vinnie Politan, an anchor, is another returnee, along with a handful of behind-the-scenes employees.

“It feels fantastic,” Ayala said. “I cannot express to you enough how happy I am.”