Gannett Broadcasting and Lionsgate-owned Debmar-Mercury have formed a partnership to develop, produce, test and distribute first-run syndicated TV series built around the concept of interactivity. Through the partnership, Gannett will be able to create and test first-run syndicated programming across all genres on its stations beginning in 2015. “We will work together to design shows to take advantage of how television has changed and create a new genre of syndicated programming,” said Gannett president Dave Lougee. “With more than 40 stations across the country, we will have the ability to experiment, test and refine programs throughout the development process.” Meanwhile, Debmar-Mercury, which is behind such 10-90 sitcoms as Anger Management and syndicated talk shows like Wendy Williams, gains distribution for its shows on Gannett, which operates the largest independent TV station group of major network affiliates in the top 25 U.S. television markets. When Gannett and Debmar-Mercury agree on the concept and timing of their first project together, they will test the series on various Gannett stations and at various times throughout the year at different test run durations. Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams Show started off with a test run on the Fox stations, which had been the most active with that model.
Debmar-Mercury & Gannett Broadcasting Ink Deal To Develop & Distribute Interactive First-Run Syndicated Programming
Debmar-Mercury said today it will keep The Wendy Williams Show in production through July for a second straight year. The syndicated talker, which has been renewed through 2017, is coming off its best metered market share, up 50% since its first May book in 2010. With a 1.4 metered market household rating and 5 share in the most recent sweeps, Wendy was up 9% year-over-year. The show also has seen double-and triple-digit gains versus May 2013 in 32 metered markets, including KTTV Los Angeles (up 19% to 3.9), WFLD Chicago (up 24% to 3.8). Season-to-date, the talker posted a 19% gain in both households (1.18 to 1.4) and women 25-54 (0.89 to a fifth-place 1.06) through May 18.
Debmar-Mercury has named Karen Bonck new SVP Branded Partnerships. Based in New York City, she will report to Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus, and will create and execute branded content and advertiser partnerships for the company’s first-run series, including The Wendy Williams Show (produced and distributed by Debmar-Mercury) and fall 2014 entry Celebrity Name Game (co-produced and co-financed by Debmar-Mercury and FremantleMedia North America, and distributed domestically by Debmar-Mercury).
The Craig Ferguson-hosted Celebrity Name Game is set to launch on 58 Sinclair stations, four CBS O&Os and others, pushing clearances for the fall 2014 syndicated pop culture game show past 80% of the U.S — up from 40% in less than a month. Tribune Broadcasting previously came aboard, acquiring Celebrity Name Game for all 25 of its stations. The half-hour strip, based on the board game Identity Crisis, was developed by Courteney Cox and David Arquette’s Coquette Prods with Scott St. John (Deal Or No Deal), who will serve as showrunner. The show teams celebrities with contestants to identify famous names, including actors, singers, athletes, pop culture figures, politicians and even cartoon characters. Celebrity Name Game is co-produced and co-financed by FremantleMedia North America and Debmar-Mercury, and is distributed domestically by Debmar-Mercury and internationally by FremantleMedia.
Debmar-Mercury has sold nationally syndicated pop culture game show Celebrity Name Game to Tribune Broadcasting stations covering 40% of the U.S. Hosted by The Late, Late Show‘s Craig Ferguson, Celebrity Name Game, based on the board game Identity Crisis, was developed by Courteney Cox and David Arquette’s Coquette Prods with Scott St. John (Deal Or No Deal), who will serve as showrunner. The half-hour strip is set for a fall 2014 launch on Tribune stations including WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles and WGN Chicago. In Celebrity Name Game, celebrities team with contestants to identify famous names including actors, singers, athletes, pop culture figures, politicians and even cartoon characters. Celebrity Name Game is co-produced and co-financed by FremantleMedia North America and Debmar-Mercury, and is distributed domestically by Debmar-Mercury and internationally by FremantleMedia North America.
Syndicated Pop Culture Game Show With Craig Ferguson Set For Fall 2014 Launch Via FremantleMedia, Debmar-Mercury & Coquette
FremantleMedia North America has teamed with Debmar-Mercury for Celebrity Name Game, a fast-paced game show slated for a fall 2014 nationally syndicated launch with The Late Late Show’s Craig Ferguson hosting. The half-hour strip, based on the board game Identity Crisis, was developed by Courteney Cox and David Arquette’s Coquette Prods with Scott St. John (Deal Or No Deal), who will serve as showrunner. Ferguson’s involvement stems from the project’s first incarnation at CBS where Coquette sold it as a pilot two years ago under the title Identity Crisis with Ferguson hosting. In Celebrity Name Game, celebrities team with contestants to identify famous names including actors, singers, athletes, pop culture figures, politicians and even cartoon characters. “Celebrity Name Game is a hilarious and innovative rapid-fire game show that combines the best of pop culture with the best of comedy,” said FMNA CEO Thom Beers, noting the company’s success with game shows hosted by comedians like Drew Carey (The Price Is Right), Steve Harvey (Family Feud) and Wayne Brady (Let’s Make A Deal). This marks the second syndicated collaboration between FMNA and Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury, along with Family Feud, which is produced by FMNA and distributed by Deb-Mer.
EXCLUSIVE: The King of Queens star Kevin James is returning to his sitcom roots. I’ve learned that as part of the overall film and TV deal James just signed with Lionsgate, he will star in and executive produce a multi-camera comedy under the 10/90 model crafted by the Lionsgate-owned Debmar-Mercury. Under the template, Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury sell sitcoms to mostly cable networks with an initial 10-episode straight-to-series order, which, if a ratings target is met, triggers a 90-episode back order that allows the sitcom to quickly amass enough episodes for its launch in broadcast syndication. Debmar-Mercury introduced the 10/90 model with Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne followed by Perry’s Meet The Browns and Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet? — all on TBS. In the model’s second incarnation, Lionsgate and Debmar-Mercury have been building comedies around proven sitcom stars including Charlie Sheen, the lead of Anger Management, now in production on its 90-episode back order; George Lopez, in production on the initial 10 episodes of Saint George; and Kelsey Grammer & Martin Lawrence, in preproduction on the initial 10 of the untitled Grammer/Lawrence project. Those three shows are on FX.
In an unusual move, Lionsgate-owned Debmar-Mercury is adding two months of original episodes to the fourth season of The Wendy Williams Show, extending production through June and July. The move is aimed at keeping the momentum of the daytime syndicated talk show, which just posted ratings highs and the biggest gains of any syndie talk show during the February sweeps. Wendy finished as the fourth-highest-rated metered market talk show among women 25-54, averaging a 1.1/7 during the month. That was up 47% in the demo from the November 2012 sweep. The ratings climb started with the expansion in mid-December of the Wendy fan-favorite “Hot Topics” segment. “I have the greatest fans in daytime TV, and I’m so excited to be giving fans more fun throughout the summer,” Williams said. “If it were up to me, we’d have a show every day, all year long!” While Wendy has aired occasional originals in July, this will be the show’s first all-original summer run since its six-week test on the Fox stations in 2008.
Photo Credit: Karl Giant for The Wendy Williams Show
Talk show host Wendy Williams and her manager-husband Kevin Hunter have formed Wendy Williams Prods, a production company that will focus on development and production of reality, game and talk shows for the cable and broadcast markets. Lionsgate-owned Debmar-Mercury, producer-distributor of Williams’ nationally syndicated The Wendy Williams Show, will be a partner in the new company, which has tapped veteran producer Lisa Knapp as SVP Development. Williams will serve as executive producer of the projects developed through her company and may also have an on-camera role in some. “This is a dream come true,” she said. “As anyone who watches my show knows, I am a huge fan of all reality and game shows, and know a thing or two about talk.”
EXCLUSIVE: It would be the biggest star pairing on a TV series in a long long time. Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence are considering pairing up to star in and produce a multi-camera comedy together for Lionsgate TV and its subsidiary Debmar-Mercury. We hear it started with a November meeting right before Thanksgiving between Grammer, Lawrence and Lionsgate where the two actors showed great chemistry. The pair are repped by different agencies: Grammer by WME, and Lawrence by UTA. But Grammer’s financial settlement with recently divorced wife Camille wasn’t yet finalized and he ordered everybody not to discuss the project until it was. (We hear the concern was that Camille might try to lay claim to the project. She reportedly owned half of Grammnet Productions with its television shows including Girlfriends, Medium, and The Game and worked as a creator, writer, and executive producer within the production company.) That financial settlement finalized right before Christmas and now the project is on a fast track. In the past few weeks, the studio has quietly sent out feelers to writers. In coming weeks, the studio will start meeting with potential creators/showrunners to pin down a concept for the buddy series which sources say may have an “odd couple” feel.
George Lopez is returning to the family sitcom genre. I’ve learned that Lopez, star, co-creator and executive producer of multi-camera sitcom George Lopez, which ran on ABC for six seasons and 120 episodes, has closed a deal in principal with Lionsgate TV subsidiary Debmar-Mercury to co-create and star in a new multi-camera comedy about a Latino family. Lopez will executive produce the series with his manager, 3 Arts’ Michael Rotenberg.
Upon finalizing the deal, Lopez and Debmar-Mercury, who both declined comment, are expected to begin a search for a showrunner. The project will be developed and produced under Debmar-Mercury’s 10-90 model, in which the company sells sitcoms to cable networks with an initial 10-episode straight-to-series order, which, if meeting a ratings target, triggers a multi-season order as big as 90 episodes. The goal is for Debmar-Mercury to quickly amass enough episodes for the sitcom’s launch in broadcast syndication, area where Lopez has been successful. While never a major hit in its original run on ABC, George Lopez has enjoyed a strong afterlife in syndication. A decade after its ABC premiere, the show continues to do well in primetime on cable, Nick at Nite and a Spanish-language version on MTV’s Tr3s, and in the afternoon in broadcast syndication. The George Lopez sitcom follows in the footsteps of Debmar-Mercury’s previous successes under its model, all minority family sitcoms: Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne and Meet The Browns and Ice Cube’s Are We There …
Distributor Debmar-Mercury has renewed Family Feud through 2015 in more than 75% of the U.S. on stations that belong to Fox, Sinclair, CBS, Tribune, Cox, Capital, NBC, Sunbeam, Newport and Belo broadcast groups. The show, hosted by Steve Harvey and produced by FremantleMedia North America, has posted a ratings gains of 35% in households and 40% in women 25-54 vs. 2010, when Harvey joined as host and stations in more than half of the country upgraded the show to a 5-8 PM slot. “Stations have wasted no time in securing this franchise well into the future with these long-term renewals, extending Family Feud through 2015 and making it a viable alternative to off-network sitcoms for many stations seeking strong early fringe and access programming,” Debmar-Mercury co-president Ira Bernstein said. Starting next season, new episodes of Family Feud will be shot in HD.
Charlie Sheen’s new sitcom Anger Management has landed at FX with an initial order for 10 episodes for a summer 2012 launch. If successful, that will be followed by a 90-episode order by FX as well as broadcast syndication launch by distributor Debmar-Mercury in fall 2014. After a marathon of pitches to broadcast and cable networks earlier this month followed by a short window of intense negotiations, the direct-to-series project has found a home at the cable network that already carries reruns of Sheen’s previous series, Two And A Half Men, to great ratings success. The cable network also owns the TV rights to the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie Anger Management — about a mild-mannered man (Sandler) ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a volatile therapist (Nicholson) – on which the series is loosely based. Sheen plays a version of Nicholson’s character on the show, produced by Lionsgate TV and distributed by sibling Debmar-Mercury. Joe Roth, who produced the movie, is producing the series with Sheen, who retains a significant ownership stake, and The Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford, who serves as writer/showrunner. Production is slated to begin in early 2012.
EXCLUSIVE: As the traditional broadcast pitch season is winding down, one of the most talked-about projects has hit the broadcast/cable marketplace. Star-producer Charlie Sheen has been out in full force pitching his new series Anger Management along with producer Lionsgate TV and distributor Debmar-Mercury over the past two weeks. There has been a healthy level of interest in the project, with a number of networks taking the pitch. I’ve learned that the list included broadcasters NBC, Fox and ABC as well as cable networks FX, USA Network, Comedy Central and TV Land and streaming company Netflix. I hear Sheen was present at all the meetings, which were held on both the East and West coasts. “It was a great pitch, very polished,” a person who has seen the presentation said, with Sheen described as “very buttoned up and passionate.” What is being pitched is a series version of the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie Anger Management about a mild-mannered man (Sandler) ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a volatile therapist (Nicholson), with Sheen playing a version of Nicholson’s character and The Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford writing/executive producing.
Word is cable networks FX, USA, Comedy Central or sibling TV Land are a possibility, along with Netflix. Getting meetings with broadcast networks was a coup for the producers, but they were always considered a long shot because of the type of deal Debmar-Mercury is seeking for the series: a trial 10-episode run that, if ratings guarantees are met, triggers a 90-episode pickup. (According to sources, the sizes of the orders in the two stages are not set in stone and Debmar-Mercury may be open to tweaking them, but the commitment is expected to remain very significant, especially for a broadcast network.) There had been talk about Fox possibly teaming with FX and NBC with sibling USA for such an arrangement, but that appears highly unlikely. The only pairing that seems possible is one between Comedy Central and TV Land, both part of MTV Networks Entertainment Group headed by Doug Herzog. Comedy Central, of course, has an in with Sheen as it did the Roast Of Charlie Sheen last month. Given its success, Comedy Central seems like a natural home for Anger Management — though, according to an industry source, Herzog had been joking privately that he wants the bad Charlie Sheen, not the nice one, a reference to Sheen’s recent image rehabilitation as he dropped the rants of warlocks and tiger blood, adopted a conciliatory tone towards his former employers at Two And A Half Men and settled his $100 million lawsuit against them. But while bad boy Charlie Sheen has entertainment value, even cleaned-up Charlie Sheen is probably difficult to insure, and the off-the-rails one last spring is certainly impossible to.
It’s official: The Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford will guide Charlie Sheen in his return to series television with Anger Management. I’ve learned that Helford has closed his deal with Lionsgate TV to come on board the project as writer/executive producer/showrunner. Helford, who has created two successful sitcom starring vehicles in the past — ABC’s Drew Carey and George Lopez — was one of several veteran showrunners that Sheen met with and someone the actor connected with right away. Based on the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie about a mild-mannered man (Sandler) ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a volatile therapist (Nicholson), Anger Management will star Sheen as an updated version of Nicholson’s character. The project is being produced by Lionsgate TV, Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios and Sheen manager Mark Burg’s production company Evolution Management.
Apparently Charlie Sheen got the soul searching and remorse out of his system on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. It was all fluff in the promo clips of his Monday guest shot on The Wendy Williams Show just sent out by Debmar-Mercury. The host does get Sheen to show off his favorite tattoo, however.
Charlie Sheen’s media blitz on Sept. 19, the day of the Two and a Half Men season premiere, continues. In addition to his Comedy Central roast airing that night, Sheen will appear on The Wendy Williams Show earlier that day for an exclusive daytime interview. If you wonder how Williams scooped more established daytime players like Ellen DeGeneres, Dr. Phil or the ladies from The View in landing Sheen, the show is produced and distributed by Lionsgate subsidiary Debmar-Mercury, which is also set to distribute Sheen’s Lionsgate TV-produced new sitcom Anger Management.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that The Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford has entered negotiations to write, executive produce and run Charlie Sheen’s new comedy series Anger Management. Helford was one of several veteran comedy showrunners that met with Lionsgate TV and producer Joe Roth on the project and emerged as a leading candidate for the job about two weeks ago. Helford has been considered a strong choice to create a starring vehicle for Sheen, having done the same in the past for Drew Carey with ABC’s The Drew Carey Show and George Lopez with the comedian’s eponymous ABC sitcom. He will develop Anger Management based on the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie, with Sheen set to play an updated version of Nicholson’s character, a volatile anger management therapist. Once there is a showrunner on board, Lionsgate is expected to take out the project to networks and station groups in search of a buyer.