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Listen: Why Debmar-Mercury Is Betting on Nick Cannon, ‘Schitt’s Creek’ and Syndication

They put their homes up as collateral to finance the business in its infancy more than 15 years ago. Today, Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein are getting ready to launch not one, but two new first-run series in the fall, adding to a roster that includes “The Wendy Williams Show” and “Family Feud.”

On the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Marcus and Bernstein discuss the growth of Debmar-Mercury, which is now owned by Lionsgate and serves as the studio’s syndication arm. The two offer a seller’s analysis of the state of the traditional linear TV marketplace.

Marcus points to the 20 million-plus U.S. households that now receive linear broadcast TV only through digital antennas. That has the effect of increasing the value of local and national broadcast outlets as they can count on broader distribution than linear cable outlets, which are losing reach as MVPDs lose subscribers.

“Most big cable networks are at about 80 million homes — and if you talk to people in cable, they say it’s going to 50 (million),” Marcus said. “If you’re an advertiser, where are you going to go? The broadcast business is not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Debmar-Mercury is prepping for the fall launch of a talk show hosted by Nick Cannon as well as a weekend magazine show, “Central Ave.”

Cannon’s show stemmed from his guest hosting stint on “Wendy Williams” last year. The host of “The Masked Singer” and VH1’s “Wild ‘N Out” was a natural, Bernstein said. “We watched him and said, ‘Oh my god it looks like he’s been doing this for 20 years,” he said.

The company is also handling the sale of broadcast rerun rights to “Schitt’s Creek,” the Pop TV comedy series that has also been available on Netflix. That exposure makes it something of a question mark as to whether TV station buyers will bite on the show that of late has generated awards traction and cult-fave comedy status.

“If this was 30 years ago and ‘Schitt’s Creek’ was coming off of CBS and it’s as good as it is — this would be a huge sale,” Bernstein said. “Nobody really knows what the value of this show is, but we’re going to try.”

Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

(Pictured: Ira Bernstein, Mort Marcus)

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