Simon Andreae Tapped as Fox Reality Chief

The Discovery veteran replaces Mike Darnell, who departed after nearly two decades this spring.
Getty Images
Simon Andreae

Simon Andreae is Fox's new reality chief.

After a wide-reaching executive search, the network has finally found a replacement for Mike Darnell, who departed after nearly two decades this spring. Andreae comes from the world of cable, where he most recently served as senior vp development and production for Discovery before returning to the U.K. to launch the Sony-backed production company Scarlet Media this summer.

PHOTOS: Mike Darnell's Greatest Hits: 'American Idol,' 'Kitchen Nightmares' and 'The Swan'

"This was a highly sought-after role in town, and given Fox's legacy in groundbreaking unscripted entertainment, we were looking for a particular caliber of executive -- and we found the perfect fit in Simon," said Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly in a statement announcing the news Tuesday. "Not only is Simon known for innovative thinking, he's a dynamic leader who has been a producer and a network executive on both sides of the pond, and he has the energy and drive to open a new chapter in Fox unscripted.”

The news comes just weeks after rival ABC put another cable vet, former E! programming chief Lisa Berger, in charge of its unscripted business. That move, like this one, was as much a commentary on the state of the broadcast reality business -- which has been described as "stale" given both the lack of originality and the lack of hits -- as it is one on the health of the cable genre. Whether it's Berger's Kardashians franchise or A&E's red-hot Duck Dynasty, cable has generated the vast majority of the genre's attention of late.

Over at Fox, there wasn't the same sense of urgency to find a replacement since the network almost immediately placed News Corp. veteran David Hill in charge of the network's two biggest franchises, American Idol and The X-Factor. With those two series cared for, and the cadre of Gordon Ramsay series all but running themselves at this stage, Fox's Reilly and the corporate headhunter that was enlisted had time to cast the net wide. And they did precisely that, with multiple execs and producers from broadcast, cable and the independent world all considered -- and in many cases, interviewed. At different points during the process, Relativity's Tom Forman, National Geographic Channel's Howard Owens and Shine vet Ben Hall were front-runners. 

"I'm very grateful to Kevin and his team for giving me this opportunity," Andreae said. "My intention is to help build on Fox's rich heritage of risk and innovation and to help support and extend its range of category-defining shows and world-leading talent."

Prior to Discovery, Andreae ran The Incubator, the independent production company behind such shows as Science Channel's Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman, Nat Geo's In the Womb, Discovery's Science of Sex Appeal and TLC's My Shocking Story. Additionally, he was an executive producer on the feature documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, which won the Audience Award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, and served as head of science and education at Channel 4 in the U.K., where he oversaw more than 100 hours of programming each year. Under his leadership, the latter received its highest ratings in 22 years.