The Economics Of Judge Judy

January 20, 2016 in Daily Bulletin

Alex Mayyasi pulled the curtain of off Judge Judy:

  • Judge Judy’s show is the highest rated on daytime television, with more viewers than Oprah.
  • For this she earns $47 million a year, making her television’s highest paid woman.
  • While she was once a judge she isn’t one any longer. The set is made to look like a courtroom.
  • But the judgments are real. Judge Judy is an arbiter at a binding arbitration – the system is a legitimate alternative to the courts.
  • Extras are paid to mill about so that the bailiff has someone to say “come to order” at.
  • TV producers hunt across America for real cases. Those who agree to have Judy as their arbiter are given a free trip to the set in LA where all meals and hotels are paid for.
  • They are also given an appearance fee of up to $500.
  • And while Judge Judy might rule that one party owes another party money, it’s actually the television producers that pay the settlement.
  • Those who know they are likely to win the case agree to appear on the show for the money and the quick settlement.
  • Those who know they will lose agree to Judge Judy’s arbitration because they know they will have the settlement paid on their behalf.
  • Experts help prepare the parties involved in the case by giving them tips on how they can best communicate their position.
  • They may also be taken to a hairdresser or be given a set of clean clothes if they are particularly destitute.
  • Once this prep work is done however the action is mostly real. There is no pre-established script and there are no re-shots to get a better take of a line.

The full article contains many more fascinating details, including an account of Judge Judy’s rise at the age of 50, and the competitors that have arisen. You should read it here.

Source: Priceonomics