For all-news cable TV, a judge's ruling last week allowing TV cameras into an August 6 hearing for NBA star Kobe Bryant (search) is like Christmas in July.
The media frenzy that so many have compared to the O.J. Simpson (search) case just got the one element it lacked — live TV pictures.
A Colorado judge, Frederick Gannett, agreed to allow one TV video camera into the courtroom next week at which the Los Angeles Laker superstar will hear the charges against him.
The ruling does not cover any future trial, if there is one. But the chance for the all-news cable channels to broadcast live pictures of Bryant — in a court, rather than playing on one — has kicked up the story's importance yet another notch.
"I think that the Simpson case was the legal version of 'The Perfect Storm.' It had everything going to make it what it became," says MSNBC and NBC News' chief legal correspondent Dan Abrams, who covered the Simpson case for Court TV.
"I think [the Bryant] case will be a Category 4 hurricane when it comes to media coverage - but it won't be 'The Perfect Storm.' "
Bryant is charged with raping a 19-year-old Colorado hotel worker who came to his room.
He already held a tearful press conference with his wife to express regret for the sexual encounter - which he says was consensual. The most obvious common denominator between the two cases is the race issue, Abrams says, adding that since the Simpson case, the TV landscape has changed.
"At the time of that trial there was no MSNBC or Fox News," says Abrams. "It was Court TV and CNN, but there's no question that people were interested."
In truth, the TV news outlets have been looking for a story like O.J. for a long time.
The Simpson case actually changed the landscape of TV - drawing millions away from the soap operas, putting Court TV on the map and teaching cable-news execs that staying with a single, hot story for an entire day actually built viewership rather than scaring it away.
Even the events of 9/11 have not been able to provide the kind of sustained, ratings-producing interest that the Simpson murder case did.
"Nothing will ever be as big as O.J., but this is newsworthy and it comes during the summer when there aren't a lot of options on TV," says TV-industry analyst Marc Berman.
"People are going to want to watch this, he's a sports celebrity who has fallen from grace - it's real life drama and people want to see him on trial."
Colorado officials will likely look long and hard at what effects TV has on the hearing next week.
State law permits cameras in the court for the trial — and that decision will be one of the most important media rulings of the year.
"I think that court rooms were built with galleries, with rows of benches, for a reason," says Abrams.
"To me, it makes perfect sense that in this day and age a public trial involves coverage with a single camera. It's not some secret government effort. It's the people of the State of Colorado. The people have a right to be able to watch, even when there are not enough seats inside the courtroom," he says.
For sure, there will be no parking spots on the streets in front of the Eagle County court house next week because of all the TV trucks.