Tyler Perry has been saying for years that he wants to launch his own network. Now he may be on the verge of starting an Oprah Winfrey–style channel with the backing of Lionsgate.
"Tyler is one of those rare resources that one could launch a channel with," said Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer on a conference call with financial analysts Wednesday morning. "We have a lot of options if we choose to go down that path."
If Perry's cable network — which the New York Times reported may be called Tyler TV — does happen, it would fulfill a goal the "Madea" star has been contemplating for a while.
At TBS' 2009 television upfront, for example, Perry spoke of his desire to start a network. "It's a standalone type of night, and as I grow it from 'House of Payne' to 'Meet the Browns' and spread out with more and more shows, who knows?" he said of the back-to-back shows TBS airs. "I'm working on anchoring my own network, but this is a great place to sharpen the anchor."
Lionsgate is well acquainted with Perry, having distributed every "Madea" movie as well as "Precious," the 2009 film he produced with Oprah Winfrey and others. The company holds a first-look deal for his projects, and Lionsgate subsidiary Debmar-Mercury distributes his sitcoms "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" and "Meet the Browns."
TBS will debut a third Perry sitcom, "For Better or Worse," in November, replacing "House of Payne," which will end this fall after seven seasons and 222 episodes.
"He is a rare piece of talent that can bring an audience anywhere," said Feltheimer to analysts.
Feltheimer said that a course of action with the proposed Tyler TV hadn't been established but that it might begin with a purchase of an existing channel that would then be rebranded, or it could be rolled into a network it already owns, such as the TV Guide Channel.
The company does have cash on hand. On Tuesday, Lionsgate announced better-than-predicted numbers, realizing a net profit of $12.2 million for Q1 of 2011, well up from the $64.1 million loss it suffered in the same frame the year before.
The New York Times reported that the Tyler Perry venture would initially be stocked with reruns of his sitcoms and airings of his many films, but that Perry would also acquire programming befitting his signature homespun style.