Debmar-Mercury has previously had success with the trial-run format, running original sitcom Tyler Perry’s House of Payne on 10 stations in the spring and summer of 2006. Today, the show receives strong ratings on TBS and is set to premiere this fall on TV stations.
Fox Stations senior vice president of programming Frank Cicha said the traditional syndication model “is no longer functional” and is in need of radical overhaul.
“I believe what we’re doing with Debmar-Mercury is a syndication blueprint for the future,” he added. “Wendy is a compelling talent with an extremely loyal fan base, and this opportunity comes to us within a deal structure that allows both sides to minimize risk, yet share the rewards if the program is the hit we know it can be.”
Williams, who hosts a popular program on radio station WBLS New York, will comment on everything from celebrity gossip to news to fashion. She’ll help audience members and viewers with their “personal-life issues involving sex, relationships, money and dating.”
Executive producers are Rob Dauber -- formerly co-executive producer of NBC Universal’s Martha and a supervising producer on CBS’ Oprah and Warner Bros.’ Rosie O’Donnell -- Williams and her husband, Kevin Hunter.
Daytime syndication has become a troubled TV part, with many new daytime offerings having a hard time attracting large enough audiences to make them worthwhile for advertisers. Low ratings mean such shows can cost TV stations more than they earn.
Debmar-Mercury co-president Ira Bernstein said Williams’ radio popularity will translate to strong TV ratings. “For stations anxious to buy a proven performer, rather than pie in the sky, this show will allow them to get a look at concrete ratings results rather than empty promises when making their fall-2009 programming decisions,” he added.
Williams joins a host of other would-be talkers lining up to premiere in fall 2009. Program Partners is shopping Marie, starring Marie Osmond. Warner Bros. is developing Southern cook Paula Deen off Food Network. Harpo Productions is working on a medical-based show starring Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Oprah’s production company also signed a development deal with Kirstie Alley. CBS is working with former teen queen Valerie Bertinelli. And Sony plans to launch Broadway star Marisa Jaret Winokur, hoping that she can become a successor to Ricki Lake.