A new Discovery: twin syndication deal

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Debmar-Mercury has snapped up domestic syndication rights to two of Discovery Communications' most popular series -- "Deadliest Catch" and "American Chopper" -- marking Discovery's first deal in syndication.

Debmar-Mercury, which last week announced a deal for a new syndicated game show version of Trivial Pursuit with Hasbro for fall 2008, is planning to make "Chopper" available to broadcast stations for weekend runs starting in fall 2008, while "Catch" will become available a year later. Both of the unscripted shows are being offered on a barter basis, with a 7/7 split. Discovery is handling ad sales.

Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein said the deal came about after the pair were approached by Joel Berman, who is overseeing syndication for Discovery Communications.

"He asked us about the possibility of taking out 'Chopper,' and we said it would be better if we had both shows," Marcus said. "One of the great things about Discovery is that their programming is so good, so high-quality and fantastic for stations. These shows also are very advertiser-friendly."

Bernstein added that he and Marcus have just begun initial conversations with the stations and have received a lot of positive response.

"Sometimes what you're selling is perfectly appropriate and effective for the TV stations to air, but it's not the kind of show that GMs watch," he said. "Here, it's both. They both know and love the shows."

For his part, Berman said the stations that license the show and Discovery will benefit greatly from the deal.

"The TV stations will get two shows with a proven track record that will perform well for them, while Discovery will expose its programming to a wider audience, a different audience," he said. "People who may not have been viewers of either on the Discovery networks will find them in syndication, and then that will hopefully expand our viewership base."

"Chopper" is set at Orange County Choppers, which builds custom motorcycles. It debuted on Discovery Channel in March 2003, averaging 2.4 million total viewers during its run on the network, before moving to sister channel TLC in January.

"Catch," which debuted on Discovery in 2005, follows the captains and crews of eight crab-fishing vessels. The Emmy-nominated program was Discovery's highest-rated series last year, averaging more than 2.5 million total viewers. Season 4 premieres in April.

"Chopper" is executive produced by Craig Piligian through Pilgrim Films and Television, while "Catch" is from Original Prods. and executive producers Thom Beers and Jeff Conroy.

The Trivial Pursuit deal, brokered by WMA, was announced Tuesday. The half-hour strip, titled "Trivial Pursuit: America Plays," is a take on the classic game that will rely heavily on user-generated content, whereby viewers submit questions via video uploads to participating station Web sites.
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