Fox reality chief Darnell exploring options

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After 13 years at Fox Broadcasting Co., the company's reality chief Mike Darnell is mulling an exit to launch a production company, sources said.

Darnell, whose trademark brand of outrageous reality projects has become a key part of the network's identity, is at the end of his current deal with Fox.

Sources said Darnell is in talks with the network for a new deal while also exploring the possibility of switching to producing.

It is understood that he is being lured by new NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal TV Studio co-chairman Ben Silverman to set up shot there in a free-wheeling agreement similar to the one he landed there for his Reveille production company.

Darnell, whose department shepherds television's biggest show, "American Idol," also developed such hits as "Joe Millionaire" and, most recently, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader."

Darnell is very well liked within News Corp. At the network, he enjoys great autonomy and has more power than his counterparts at the other networks. Still, no executive salary can match the income for a producer of a megahit like "Idol."
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