Fox Chief Charlie Collier Preaches the Value of Being an Indie Broadcast Network

The executive also confirmed that Jussie Smollett would not return to 'Empire' and Fox plans to enter the holiday programming space.
Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier

"For those of you who took the under bet on me, I'm sorry to say, I'm still here." That's how Fox Entertainment's Charlie Collier took the stage Wednesday for his second appearance at the Television Critics Association's press tour as the helm of the newly independent broadcast network.

The former AMC exec used his 45 minutes before the press corps to tout the appeals of being a slimmed down indie at a time when his competitors are scaling up. To hear the exec tell it, the new Fox is embracing its independence and has the opportunity to determine if "bigger" is actually better for the broadcaster.

"Our independence allows us to question every assumption about what it means to be a broadcast network," he told reporters, stressing that it takes time to build a company of a different size. "But rest assured, the Fox evolution is underway."

Collier stressed a three-pronged approach to how Fox Entertainment is being constructed. The first, he said, was rolling out a season that's filled with sports (Major League Baseball, WWE, the NFL, college football) and bold bets on scripted and unscripted (this summer's BH90210 "revival" and What Just Happened). Second: building up Fox's "creative engine" with acquisitions like animation powerhouse Bento Box (Bob's Burgers). And third: leaning into what makes Fox different on a structural level with deals that offer creators flexibility. To that end, Collier announced Fox Entertainment's first-ever overall deal as an indie broadcaster (with Teen Wolf creator Jeff Davis).

"We're vying with the best in the business for writers and creative partners and we're committed to making sure they know what Fox is building and what kind of home it will be," said the exec.

Collier noted that at a time when creators are increasingly drawn by sizable Netflix pacts in which they offer a cost-plus deal and a large upfront sum for originals, Fox continues to offer creators an increasingly rare commodity.

"We at Fox Entertainment believe in creating and sharing with talent the holy grail of television: the backend," he said. "Our structure allows creators access to a broadcast network with few layers. Rather than lock down talent, Fox will take the right projects to other platforms when it makes sense."

Fox currently has no in-house scripted studio, but it has partnered with a number of studios — Disney-owned 20th TV, Universal Television and Warner Bros. TV, among others — to co-produce nearly all of its freshman class. On the unscripted side, Fox launched its in-house alternative studio and now has full ownership of the new hit The Masked Singer.

"We're a new company, we can move quickly. Lachlan [Murdoch] and the team can make fast, forward-looking agreements," said Collier, stressing Fox's co-production model and aggressive approach to building up homegrown assets. "We're building something different and new. These are the early days and there's so much ahead of us. It doesn't get much better than this." 

Here are other takeaways from Collier's time at TCA:

Jussie Smollett will officially not be back on Empire. In May, Fox and Empire producers 20th TV announced that the embattled actor remained under contract for the forthcoming final season but was not expected to return. Creator Lee Daniels shortly afterward confirmed that Smollett would not return. Collier solidified that and confirmed that there were no plans for Smollett to return to the hip-hop soap for its final season. "In cases like this … you try to gather all the information and make a good decision at the time," he said. "Lee is right — there are no plans for Jussie to return to Empire." Collier, meanwhile, also said he'd be open to doing Empire spinoffs were there more story to tell. (It's also worth noting that Empire sibling series Star was canceled last season.)

Fox will brand the holidays. Yes, really. As previously announced, the network picked up six episodes of the half-hour scripted comedy A Moody Christmas. "We haven't branded the holidays in the past; now we'll do Fox style," Collier said. "We'll be the anti-holidays." The exec noted that Fox will likely schedule the series over three nights with two episodes apiece and that more holiday programming announcements would be coming.

Fox is open to late-night and morning show programming. As he looks to reinvent the network, Collier said he "consider[s] everything," including a morning show or late-night series. He stressed that Fox's affiliates often have the No. 1 morning show and late-night show that leads into and out of scripted. Still, Collier said he remained open to getting into both genres. "We will look at opportunities holistically," he said. "[We've had] a lot of interesting conversations, but there's nothing [to announce] right now."