The Wendy Williams Show

Debmar-Mercury has set a wide-ranging syndication development pact with Gannett Broadcasting that calls for the partners to mount regional tests of various programs using the broad reach of Gannett’s 40-plus TV stations.

The tests are expected to begin next year and will also emphasize efforts to weave interactive features into the programs, as well as building in mobile access for viewers from the start.

Tailoring programming for mobile platforms is a big focus for large station groups like Gannett at present as the mobile digital market is generally viewed as a under-leveraged opportunity for local broadcast stations. Gannett, which last year doubled the size of its station holdings with by acquiring Belo Television, would love to be able to impress Wall Street — not to mention viewers — with innovative program offerings across multiple platforms.

“We will work together to design shows to take advantage of how television has changed and create a new genre of syndicated programming,” said Gannett Broadcasting prexy Dave Lougee. “With more than 40 stations across the country, we will have the ability to experiment, test and refine programs throughout the development process. Local broadcasters, like Gannett, have an opportunity to tap into the organic relationship between television viewing and social media.”

Debmar is known for teaming with station groups for carefully targeted test runs of first-run syndie programs before committing to a national launch. The process has helped the indie distrib improve its track record with new shows, and it prospective station buyers much more data to evaluate when making programming decisions.

Debmar’s successful talkshow strip “The Wendy Williams Show” (pictured) bowed in 2010 on the back of a six-week test on a handful of Fox O&O stations in 2008.

“With its strong roster of major-market affiliates and cutting-edge digital capabilities, we will be able to jointly create programming that is designed to meet both Gannett’s needs and those of network affiliates throughout the country,” said Debmar toppers Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein. “We are big believers in the on-air testing model, because it gives stations concrete information on which to base their buying decisions before making long-term commitments to a series.”

Deal with Gannett will not prevent Debmar from mounting program tests with other station groups. The distrib has worked closely with the Fox O&O group in recent years on various tests.

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