Judge Judy should hang up her robe and gavel in favor of a businesswoman’s briefcase. The syndicated daytime court drama star has just sold her back catalog of episodes, more than 5200 hours of Emmy award winning programming, to CBS TV Distribution. She also managed to get an extension on her contract into the 2020-21 season for a whopping $47 million.
Selling the rights to her library of shows is actually no small feat. It’s a widely held belief in the television industry that nobody would ever want to buy the rights to rerun episodes of a syndicated show like Judge Judy, but Judy Sheindlin, star, and producer of the show thought that her old back catalog had some value in it still.
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After her most recent contract negotiations in 2015 with CBS, she acquired the rights to her library of shows—something that doesn’t normally happen with daytime talk shows. Then in February this year, Sheindlin partnered with Lisbeth R. Barron, CEO of Barron International Group and former Bear Stearns banker, to approach various studios and distributors with the idea of purchasing her library after the show’s first-run episodes concluded in 2020.
Her asking price: $200 million. It was a phenomenal sum to ask for rights to reruns.
But Judge Judy isn’t like any other show. Despite being in its 21st season, it still averages over 10 million daily viewers. Once the show ends, those viewers will want to get their Judy fix on streaming services or cable, and the global marketplace is still a relatively untapped source of revenue.
Ironically, it was CBS, the original owners of the show, that decided to buy back the rights to the Judge Judy library along with extending Sheindlin’s contract into 2021. As a broadcaster losing viewers to rival networks and streaming services every day, a stable source of revenue was desperately needed, and Judge Judy fit the bill.
The exact details of the agreement were not disclosed, but it seems unlikely that CBS paid the full $200 million asking price, with some reports saying they paid closer to $95 million. That said, Sheindlin’s salary of $47 million annually makes her the highest paid TV actor in the world.
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