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JUL
14
5 MOS

Fox TV Chiefs Dana Walden, Gary Newman Talk New Structure and Network Plans

On a conference call with reporters Monday, the new chairmen of Fox TV Group fielded questions about vertical integration, plans to "woo" back producers and the "why now" of it all.

Dana Walden and Gary Newman

Dana Walden and Gary Newman are already on the hot seat.

Within minutes of being promoted to the newly created positions of chairmen and CEOs of the Fox Television Group, which gives them oversight over Fox Broadcasting as well as 20th Century Fox TV Studios, the duo hopped on a call with the press. But before fielding questions, the pair reiterated the strength of having streamlined oversight over both divisions, suggesting that they've been at a disadvantage as a independently minded studio in recent years given the bonds of vertical integration elsewhere.

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"As producers, we've been in a landscape where all of the other networks are under the same management structure as their own studios. They've been open and honest with us. Their mandate is to create a strong, stable schedule — but the big win is to own as many of their hits as possible," Walden said in her opening remarks, adding: "We saw that to remain competitive, it was time to unite our network and studio."

Later in the call, Walden, who was speaking by phone from a personal vacation in Europe, revealed that she and her longtime partner reached out 21st Century Fox president/COO Chase Carey and Fox Networks Group chairman Peter Rice on the day that Kevin Reilly resigned from Fox Broadcasting about the future structure at Fox and the shifts occurring in the studio and network businesses. As she and Newman saw it then and now, much has changed since Fox's network and studio were last united under one executive, Sandy Grushow, a decade earlier, noting that 20th TV offers programming on 16 different networks or platforms today. "That was a very long time ago, particularly long in terms of television era," she noted of Grushow's tenure atop both divisions. "At the point Sandy was there, the studio was producing exclusively for broadcast networks — and there were four of them."

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Without getting specific, both execs stressed the importance of continuing the FBC tradition of lining the network schedule with product from all studios. "The best show will win," Walden reiterated to those gathered on the call. That said, in the case of ties or bubble shows, she acknowledged that the competitive edge will often lie with 20th TV shows — as is the case with other network-studio pairs. She declined to give specific examples of the latter, though CBS' decision to pass on Backstrom (now at Fox) and the How I Met Your Mother spinoff both would likely qualify.

The new gig — which will not include control over advertising, sales or affiliate relations — won't begin until July 28, and Walden and Newman inevitably will have some lag in their attempt to turn around the network as Fox's upcoming scheduling was selected by their predecessor. They suggested they have no intention of making any rash decisions on the personnel front, before adding that there aren't any plans to bring in an entertainment president at this time. Rather, they will spend the coming months getting to know the creative executives already in place at the network better while relying on their recently promoted execs Jonnie Davis and Howard Kurtzman, among others, to step up still more on the studio side.

Looking ahead, Walden — who was approached about the FBC gig years earlier but turned it down as she would have had to leave the studio at that time — stressed a goal of "wooing" top producers, who have been turned off by broadcast in recent years, back to the medium by providing a "fantastic" development experience. She also suggested that she and Newman were eager to get into the reality space, an area that the studio hasn't had much involvement in in the past. Along those lines, she noted that Fox's schedule will continue to be a mix of different genres, including reality, and suggested she's looking forward to working with unscripted producers such as Mark Burnett, Endemol and Shine, among others.