High time for 20th TV duo

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Eight years after they took the reins of 20th Century Fox Television as presidents, Dana Walden and Gary Newman have been upped to chairmen at the studio.

It is understood that Walden and Newman, who are in the middle of four-year contracts, would begin negotiations immediately to add more years to their current deal.

Walden and Newman continue to report to News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin.

"Under Gary and Dana's leadership for the past decade, 20th Century Fox Television has achieved unparalleled success in the television marketplace and has been at the forefront of successfully leveraging new technologies to extend its hit franchises," Chernin said. "Their promotion to chairmen is richly deserved."

Under Walden and Newman, 20th TV became the first major TV studio to make a dedicated effort of producing lower-cost series by launching boutique division Fox21 and the first one to create a mobile entertainment unit that pioneered the cell phone series genre with "24: Conspiracy."

Walden and Newman also introduced the now-common industry practice of releasing series on DVD immediately following the first broadcast season, a technique that helped boost the ratings of the studio's drama "24" in its second year on the air.

"Looking back, we feel fantastic about the things this group of executives has been able to achieve," Walden said. "We feel proud of series like 'Prison Break' and '24' that our team has been able to nurture from first-season shows to second- and third-season bona fide hits."

Added Newman: "Being in this job for the last eight to nine years with a show like 'The Simpsons' consistently setting the gold standard in comedy, and with the return of 'Family Guy,' has been extremely gratifying in terms of the great deal of success these shows have brought to the company."

As chairmen, Walden and Newman, who also oversee the studio's worldwide licensing and merchandising division, plan to focus on new areas.

"There are a lot of areas that show promise -- like the digital revolution in television and the many possibilities for creation, marketing and distribution of our series in a digital world where the ability to communicate our product has changed dramatically," Newman said. "Also, the economics of the business are very challenging. That's something I see us focusing more attention to -- what can we do with international broadcasters, venture capitalists (and) advertisers to be able to improve the economics of our business."

20th TV already has made strides in creatively reinventing the economically attractive multicamera sitcom format with "How I Met Your Mother," infusing a lot of dynamic into the stodgy setup by filming on a soundstage with no live audience.

"We're determined to crack low-cost production; it's a corporate mandate," Walden said. "We're spending energy producing scripted TV series for less with Fox21, and our goal is to be more aggressive on the cable front. Beyond that, we're going to stay open-minded and continue to do business with all networks."

20th TV's roster of talent include heavy hitters Shawn Ryan, Seth MacFarlane, Ryan Murphy, Greg Garcia, Joel Surnow and David E. Kelley as well as pod Imagine Television. The studio's slate of returning and new series also include "Back to You," "Bones," "K-Ville," "Shark," "My Name Is Earl" and "Beauty and the Geek."

Walden and Newman's elevation to chairmen could open the door for senior 20th TV executives to be upped to the president level, but don't expect the duo to create another layer between them and the studio's department heads.

"One of our company's strengths is that we don't have a lot of layers," Newman said.

Before being named president alongside Newman, Walden was 20th TV's executive vp drama. She joined the studio as senior vp media and corporate relations at both Twentieth Television and 20th TV and moved to the creative side in 1994 as vp current programming.

Newman was executive vp business affairs before being appointed president with Walden. Before than, he worked for six years as an executive in NBC's business affairs department.
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