Debmar-Mercury and Gannett Partner for New Original Series

Austin Hargrave
Charlie Sheen with Debmar-Mercury's Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus

The Lionsgate-owned media company and the station group will develop, produce, test and distribute a roster of new projects — financed jointly — with the first to start airing on Gannett affiliates in 2015.

Debmar-Mercury is expanding its output, plotting a slate of new series with Gannett Broadcasting. The Lionsgate-owned studio-distributor and the stations group announced a strategic partnership on Monday to create new first-run syndicated series -- the first of which will start testing in 2015.

Under the new pact, the pair are co-financing the projects that they will develop, produce, test and distribute for a variety of dayparts. Series born of the new partnership will also share a common thread in interactivity. The new series' participatory elements will lean on Gannett's digital presence. 

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the talented team at Debmar-Mercury to produce the programming our viewers want,” said Gannett Broadcasting president Dave Lougee. “We will work together to design shows to take advantage of how television has changed and create a new genre of syndicated programming. With more than 40 stations across the country, we will have the ability to experiment, test and refine programs throughout the development process. Local broadcasters, like Gannett, have an opportunity to tap in to the organic relationship between television viewing and social media.”

Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein have already had great success in syndicated testing, pioneering the plan with The Wendy Williams Show in 2008. "We've created a more methodical process," Marcus tells The Hollywood Reporter. "You can make smarter decisions and be more businesslike about it with the testing."  

To fuel the partnership and ensure some series start testing in 2015, Debmar-Mercury is hiring a designated executive to run point on the new initiative and focus on the intended digital components.

All parties are also emphasizing flexibility in the initiative, noting that they would agree on the best times and durations for when the new programs will test.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with a premier station group like Gannett," Bernstein and Marcus commented. "With its strong roster of major-market affiliates and cutting-edge digital capabilities, we will be able to jointly create programming that is designed to meet both Gannett’s needs and those of network affiliates throughout the country. We are big believers in the on-air testing model, because it gives stations concrete information on which to base their buying decisions before making long-term commitments to a series.”

Gannett operates the largest independent TV station group of major network affiliates in America's top 25 TV markets.