Charlie Collier Outlines His Plans for New Fox: "To Win"

The AMC turned Fox Entertainment CEO talks with The Hollywood Reporter about his development model(s), what the broadcaster's schedule will look like in five years and the future of 'The Simpsons.'
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic
Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier

Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier has one clear mandate from new bosses Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch: "To win."

The AMC turned Fox executive wants to be a home for creatives' passion projects, while finding more effective ways to produce what he hopes are the hidden gems just waiting to be hits in the corners of the industry that mega-studios — like Disney and its incoming 20th Century Fox TV studio — may overlook.

Part of that plan includes teaming with former Fox programming head Gail Berman for a new venture called Sidecar, a studio of sorts that Collier hopes will entice creators of all calibers to make New Fox a destination.

Below, Collier speaks with The Hollywood Reporter about how he plans to "win," what his network will look like in a year (and five years) and how he hopes The Simpsons remains on Fox well beyond its recent two-season renewal.  

We've heard the sales pitch: "This is New Fox, bring us your passion projects." What's your mandate from the Murdochs?

They are as competitive and as curious as you'd imagine them to be in every way. The mandate, in the broadest sense, is to win. And to compete in the areas that you chose to compete and do it fully, thoughtfully and strategically.

And those areas that you're looking to "win" are…

Entertainment. The move to Fox Entertainment is really a mandate to say, "What is Fox going to be beyond being one of the four great television network brands?" It might seem small, but it's not small to me: The announcement of Gail Berman and Sidecar is a great example of saying if you came in, as I did, to Fox and had a thriving broadcast network — which means something very different than it did 30 years ago — but it had the reach of the NFL and power of the investments they've made — and the IP, from 911 to Empire — you'd say, "What do I have and how do I maximize it? What can I bolt onto this network that makes us actually a broader entertainment company that has capabilities for production, for accelerated development. We're calling Gail's company Sidecar because we're running in the same direction. That's so different from most investments that get made from a studio — "put 30 percent into something." But this is 100 percent owned, Gail Berman-run, accelerator toward our goals. That's one of the things you quickly would see if you sat in my chair: We have to speed up because I want to rush toward the great creative.

Sidecar feels very similar to AMC's script-to-series development model, where you and the cable network would develop a handful of scripts and open writers rooms and then consider a series order based on all of that. How much did that influence what you are looking to do with Sidecar?

That model, in itself, not at all. Early on in my tenure, we were able to work with Sony on a graphic novel called Talent and Graham Yost is writing multiple scripts for script-to-series. I'm very proud of that deal because it's not something that's in the legacy of Fox. But Gail is not built to do that. But as a metaphor for that, she's built to attract creators in a different way than the network does and expand our capabilities. And for those creators who understand the power of a producer like Gail being behind their project, they'll go in that door. And for someone — and many have — who have succeeded with Michael Thorn or Rob Wade, they'll go in that door. We have more ways in to do deals and projects. But it's not built to be script-to-series. It's built to be open and then we'll put the right deal with the right project. That's one of the reasons we're different than those [studios] that are bulking up. They may not choose to crawl into the corners we crawl into, and I think some of the magic is in there.

Beyond The Simpsons, you have yet to renew any other scripted series on your slate — all of which (save for Lethal Weapon) are produced by 20th TV. Looking at your pilot crop for this year, eight of 11 are from 20th TV. Are you worried about an over-reliance on programming from that studio once you splinter off?

No, that's a function of when I boarded the train. I came in mid-development cycle. The vast majority of development was through there as well …

Yes, but entertainment president Michael Thorn made it a point to split development between 20th TV and outside studios. That's not evident in your pilot pickup. How would your pilot pickups have been different if the Disney deal was already closed?

Depending on when it closed is the answer. There will be more moving forward. The ratios will move more toward what you're referring to. We love our partnerships. There's no theoretical minimum or maximum; we want the best projects and if they come from 20th, we love our partnerships with 20th. But I do think timing matters. They've operated for the last year and a half still largely with 20th and Gary Newman and Dana Walden informing the slate. They greenlit shows that are now working. That's what's happening.

There was a rumor earlier this season that you did not want to do pilot orders. What changed?

That's not a rumor I've heard. I've never said that. I think the right project deserves the right structure to make it successful. What I love and am proud of — and you mentioned script-to-series — but when a series needs a pilot and we do it well and it launches a series, I love it. When we do script-to-series and that's the right model for the writers, I love that, too. Different horses for different forces.

What does Fox Entertainment's schedule look like a year from now?

It will certainly include baseball, wrestling and football. It is a bit of a fool's errand to run at football and think you can move that audience over to entertainment programming. What you can do is expose them to things that hopefully attract them to hopefully put on their entertainment viewer mindset and come to them. If you watched CBS with the AFC Championship Game, they ran Magnum P.I. the week before it and the week after it. Their football did something like a 40 rating and Magnum did an 8 rating the first 15 minutes and then it goes back and regresses. How do you use those assets to build exposure to other things? I wouldn't say just because we have those three franchises we're going to now go build things that look like wrestling or football. What I'd love to do is have a mix of the genres we do well. And the fall is slightly different because we have fewer hours. But football and college football go away and we have a pretty traditional slate. You'll see us in dramas, comedies — single and multicam — and we'll have reality as well.

What does that schedule look like in five years?

Franchises like the baseball playoffs and what that means to the American audience is powerful. We just signed a 10-year deal. Wrestling and football, if they're on our schedule, will still be powerful assets to build brands. Being a former cable guy, I watch the No. 1 network build it around wrestling. What you'll see are hits that endure. More animation investment that supports what we do well. And along the way, what we do better than anybody at Fox — and this is their legacy and I'm trying to continue it — is take some risks on things that seem kinda nuts. When The Masked Singer is the No. 1 show in America, I don't think anyone at the last TCA would have predicted that.

What's the current Fox show — on the air now — that you think best reflects the new Fox Entertainment?

You'd have to say The Simpsons. It's been on the air for 30 years and people still think animation and Fox. But if you hear the music from Fox football, you're immediately transported to that. Those are two fundamental pillars. Then you look at Empire, and for the audience that loves that show, they know where it is. Then on Mondays, 911. We have a top five show that is Ryan Murphy telling these stories.

And those are all things you're about to lose ownership control of.

But all things we have on our air! Glass half full! (Laughing.)

The Simpsons is a loss-leader for the network that, should it move off of Fox, would provide a massive financial windfall for Disney. What do you see as the future for The Simpsons beyond its two-season renewal?

Animation is a long-term commitment for us. It's such a staple of the network. Everyone who has been involved with 30 years of great storytelling would love to see it on Fox, and I'm one of them.

Could you envision a Fox without The Simpsons on it?

I'd rather not.