TBS Nabs 100-Episode Sitcom

TBS and production company Debmar-Mercury have broken the traditional sitcom-distribution chain, reaching an unprecedented deal to carry the first 100 episodes of new dramedy series Tyler Perry’s House of Payne on the cable network.

Beginning in June 2007, Debmar-Mercury, a subsidiary of Lionsgate, will deliver to TBS access to 100 episodes of the series, with broadcast syndication to follow in September 2008 through Fox owned-and-operated stations in New York, Dallas, Houston and Washington, D.C.

The series — about a multigenerational African-American family living under one roof — received limited distribution this summer on local broadcast stations in 10 markets.


With its premiere exclusively on TBS, the show bypasses the traditional broadcast-network first window for sitcoms.

House of Payne is owned and produced by writer and actor Perry, who developed a successful series of African-American-targeted theatre shows before launching his film career with Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion.

TBS and Turner Network Television senior vice president of programming Ken Schwab said the deal provides the network with quality, exclusive content.

“We have a great collection of sitcoms from the past couple of decades, but this allows us to replenish our schedule with fresh, contemporary product and associate ourselves with Tyler Perry,” he added.

Schwab would not say how the network will schedule the series except to say that it will air in primetime.

The length of the deal provides Perry with the security to fully develop the series.

“For a creator, you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity,” he said in a prepared 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.”

In other TBS news, the network joined TNT in the broadband arena, with two video sites.


The first, veryfunnyads.com, will feature the largest online collections of funny commercials from around the world, according to network executives. Visitors to the site, which launched Aug. 23, can e-mail their friends links to their favorite commercials, offer feedback and even suggest additional ads for inclusion.

The second, LaughLab.com will feature the best from stand-up comedy routines from more than 80 top comedians including George Wallace and Jeff Garlin. The videos will range from 60-second clips to full-length specials.

In addition, the site, which will launch later this fall, will feature episodes of scripted original series My Boys and 10 Items or Less. The site will also include other features such as viewer-customized video clips, user-created comedy projects, and a video blog featuring the best viral videos from the Web.

“While TBS’s network strategy is to focus on smart, relatable storytelling as expressed through high-quality, scripted comedy series, our broadband strategy is to provide viewers with access to comedy in its many forms, from stand-up comedy to the world’s funniest commercials to broadband presentations of our original series,” said executive vice president and chief operating officer for TBS and TNT Steve Koonin. “Through Veryfunnyads.com and Laugh Lab, we’ll be able to provide broadband users with a dynamic assortment of comic material guaranteed to keep them laughing non-stop.”

On Aug. 15, TNT launched “DramaVision” on tnt.tv, where users can now find some of the network’s full-length original telefilms and its miniseries, the six-part Into the West.


Continuing on the broadband beat, Turner Sports reported last week that it generated nearly 1 million video streams for its Aug. 17 to 19 coverage of the PGA Championship tournament.

According to Turner Sports officials, “PGA.com Pipeline,” which featured a simulcast of TNT’s Aug. 17-18 afternoon tournament coverage as part of a four-channel broadband offering, generated 968,478 video streams during the course of the tournament — in which Tiger Woods captured his 12th major.

On the TV screen, TNT saw its ratings increase 4% to a 1.5 Nielsen Media Research national rating from a 1.4 the prior year.

Mike Reynolds contributed to this report.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.