Tegna, Debmar-Mercury to Test Talker Starring T.D. Jakes

In its first joint project, Tegna Media — formerly Gannett — and Debmar-Mercury will test a one-hour talk show this summer starring T.D. Jakes on four Tegna stations.

The show will be produced by Debmar-Mercury, Tegna and 44 Blue Productions in conjunction with Jakes’ TDJ Enterprises and EnLight Productions. It will air on WFAA Dallas at 3 p.m. and on WXIA Atlanta, KARE Minneapolis and WKYC Cleveland at 2 p.m. starting Aug. 17 and running through Sept. 11.

“T.D. Jakes has a fresh and distinctive voice and will make a great daytime talk show host,” said Bob Sullivan, Tegna senior VP of programming in a statement. “A charismatic leader, visionary, provocative thinker and entrepreneur with a strong, established and trusted point of view, he will be able to take on compelling topics in a thought-provoking, uplifting, hopeful and compassionate way, empowering his audience.”

Tegna and Debmar-Mercury formed a 50-50 joint venture in early 2014 to develop, produce, test and distribute first-run series for daytime, early fringe and access dayparts. Television executive and executive producer Stephanie Eno was later named to serve as VP of development to oversee and drive these projects, working closely with Alexandra Jewett and Lonnie Burstein, executive VPs of programming for Debmar-Mercury.

“In order to achieve success in daytime talk, you need to have a unique voice that lets you stand out in a crowded field as well as great built-in brand awareness. T.D. Jakes has volumes of both, with the strong potential to eventually break out and attract many new national viewers to network affiliates who are hungry for something different,” said Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein in a statement.  

Jakes is a Dallas-based pastor, entrepreneur and businessman. His company produced the film Heaven is for Real, and a second project, Miracles from Heaven, is currently in the works.

He’s also written a New York Times besteller, Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive. His next book, Destiny, is due in August. His Dallas-based church boasts a membership of 30,000, and he hosts conference series MegaFest Dallas, which attracted more than 75,000 participants in 2013. He also oversees several charitable organizations, including The Potter’s House and the T.D. Jakes School of Leadership. Jakes will use his own TV, radio, social and digital media platforms, as well as Tegna’s large social media footprint, to drive awareness of the show.

In 2009, Jakes worked with Dr. Phil and Jay McGraw and CBS Television Distribution to develop a talk show but it failed to launch in the wake of the economic collapse and the ensuing soft television market.

“I'm excited for this challenge!” said Jakes in a statement. “I have the opportunity to do something new, fresh and exciting by breaking boundaries, talking about everything, enjoying life and having a lot of fun. This show provides a great platform to expand conversations, to be encouraging, positive, uplifting and help people work through tight places in their lives.”

Showrunners are Gail Steinberg, who executive produced the original The Ricki Lake Show and who also has worked on Geraldo and Montel, and Jack Mori, senior producer on Oprah who helped launch Dr. Oz and served as a co-executive producer on The Queen Latifah Show. The show will be executive produced by 44 Blue president and co-founder Stephanie Noonan Drachkovitch, Jakes, Derrick Williams (executive VP, TD Jakes Entertainment) and Adriane Hopper Williams (EnLight).

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997 - September 2002.