Debmar-Mercury to Distribute ‘House of Payne’ to TBS, Stations

Aug 23, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Independent distribution company Debmar-Mercury has made distribution deals with TBS and station groups for writer and director Tyler Perry’s original first-run syndicated sitcom, “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” a move that shakes up the way syndication has done business in the past several years.

After a “Payne” test run in 10 major markets earlier this summer, Debmar-Mercury, a wholly owned subsidiary of film and TV production company Lionsgate, will provide TBS with 100 fully produced episodes for exclusive telecast in 2007. Broadcast syndication will follow in September 2008, led by Fox-owned stations in New York, Dallas, Houston and Washington and Weigel’s WCIU-TV in Chicago, all of which will air the series concurrently with TBS.

First-run syndication comedies have been a rare breed for more than a decade, when shows such as “Charles in Charge” inhabited the occasional weekend run during the early 1990s. The deal allows for enough original episodes to be produced that stations can run “Payne” Monday through Friday when it debuts in syndication.

“‘Tyler Perry’s House of Payne’ is the first originally produced syndicated comedy to launch with an unprecedented 100-episode order,” Debmar-Mercury co-President Ira Bernstein said in a statement. “Further, this proves that independent producers and distributors have a viable alternative to create and distribute entertainment properties successfully and profitably.”

Mr. Perry, who started in the urban theatre circuit before developing and starring in the Lionsgate theatrical releases “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and “Madea’s Family Reunion,” is making his first foray into television with “Payne.”

The Fox station group has picked up the series to air on WWOR-TV in New York, KTXH-TV in Houston, KDFI-TV in Dallas and WDCA-TV in Washington. The terms of the four-year deals with Fox and Weigel are cash plus barter.

“Payne” follows a multigenerational African American family living under one roof. It stars Allen Payne as C.J. Payne, who along with his children is forced to move himself in with his parents after his house burns down.

“For a creator, you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity,” Mr. Perry said in a statement. “With TBS and Fox committed to 100 episodes of my series, I can concentrate on telling great stories and producing the best series possible.”