The Verdict bows just in time for Black trial

Conrad Black's trial starts today in Chicago, and so does CTV Newsnet's The Verdict. The series targets crime and legal-content junkies. In tonight's opener, host Paula Todd kicks off with a live, on-the-scene-at-the-white-collar-trial-of-the-century strategy. The question is: will Canadian viewers like factual mayhem as much as fictional versions?

CTV’s 24-hour all-news brand, Newsnet, will launch The Verdict tonight – a strategy timed to coincide with the Conrad Black trial and reap the ratings benefits of covering the legal battle in a live format. Airing Mondays through Thursdays at 9 pm ET/PT, the hour-long show aims to tap into audiences’ appetites for crime and legal dramas such as CTV’s main net winners CSI, Law & Order and Criminal Minds.

CTV is promoting the show on-air throughout its primetime sked, and recently hired longtime TVO star Paula Todd – a former lawyer and journalist – as host. The Verdict will also feature legal experts providing analysis and perspectives on other headline-dominating stories such as the Robert Pickton case. It’s the news net’s first original series premiere since the launch of Mike Duffy Live in 2005. There are currently no major sponsors attached to The Verdict, although a CTV spokesperson tells MiC the net is interested in selling opportunities around it.

CTV will also re-air its original movie on the beleaguered tycoon, Shades of Black (starring Albert Schultz as Black and Lara Flynn Boyle as his equally famous wife, Barbara Amiel Black). The two-hour movie first aired in December 2006 and drew in a healthy 888,000 viewers. The main CTV net has scheduled the encore for 8 pm ET on March 23, nine days after the Black trial’s start.