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TBS Nabs 100-Episode Sitcom

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

Debmar-Mercury, a subsidiary of Lionsgate, will deliver to TBS beginning in June 2007 access to 100 episodes of the series, with broadcast syndication to follow in September 2008 through Fox-owned 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 past 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.

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

TBS and TNT 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.

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 a film career with Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion.

“For a creator, you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity,” Perry 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.”