‘Zone’ finds syndie sellers

Syndie vets on deck for USA's sci-fi skein

Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein’s Debmar-Mercury Entertainment has picked up exclusive rights to reruns of USA Network series “The Dead Zone” for TV syndication.

Kevin Beggs, president of programming and production for Lions Gate, which co-produces the show with CBS Paramount Intl., said he expects a number of cable nets will bid on “Dead Zone” because “it’s high-concept, with a mythology/conspiracy, from a book by Stephen King.”

The reruns become available in September 2006; package will include at least 67 hours.

But unlike shows with plots that carry over into multiple episodes, “our A-stories are self-contained in every episode,” Beggs said, potentially giving a boost to the show’s sales potential; self-contained dramas tend to play better in rerun than cliffhanger series.

Debmar-Mercury plans to pitch “Dead Zone” to the usual cable suspects, led by USA, which carries the original episodes.

Beggs said he’s not worried that nets other than USA will reject the show because it’s too associated with USA’s brand. He cited Spike TV’s recent purchase of Sony Pictures TV’s “The Shield” despite the fact that FX nurtured it, turned it into a hit and still scored solid Nielsens with it.

Cable TV is not the only window for “Dead Zone.” Debmar-Mercury has mounted a sales effort directed at TV stations, which would carry “Dead Zone” on weekends beginning next year while the cable network is playing it Monday through Friday.

The cable buyer will pay a cash license fee. Stations won’t pay cash but instead give up seven minutes of commercial time within each hour to Debmar-Mercury for sale to national advertisers. The stations keep seven minutes for local sale.

Debmar-Mercury has become one of the most active independent distributors in television. It has successfully cleared reruns of “Farscape” and “South Park” in TV syndication, as well as a movie lineup for Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios.

Last month, Debmar-Mercury sold reruns of “The Man Show” to Comcast’s G4 cable network.

Also in Debmar-Mercury’s inventory is “Really Wild Animals,” a weekly half-hour nature series from National Geographic. The pitch to TV stations: “Animals” is an educational/informational series that will help stations meet their obligations under the Children’s TV Act.

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