Fox's Outgoing Chairman Kevin Reilly on His Next Steps, Rumors, Pilot Season's Future (Q&A)

Kevin Reilly

"We have our heads up our ass."

The Fox Entertainment chairman, on the television industry's failure to respond to the changing behavior of viewers, including watching TV on DVRs, Netflix and Hulu.

Kevin Reilly's broadcast days are behind him.

Shortly after announcing that he'd be stepping down at the end of June, the Fox Broadcasting entertainment chairman agreed to an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, during which he says he will look to another medium, be that a traditional cable network or a digital player a la Netflix or Amazon, for his next act. And though he's not had time to think through what he'll pursue specifically, Reilly says he's optimistic about the opportunities that have emerged across the landscape in recent years.

Reilly's departure raises a number of questions, including what will become of his ambitious plans to reinvent what he has described in recent months as an antiquated pilot-season model. He acknowledges he's not yet clear on how his corporate bosses at 21st Century Fox and his unnamed replacement will approach the latter, just that he's hopeful his initiative, which included several straight-to-series orders, will continue in some form. The Hollywood Reporter's interview with Reilly is below.

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You've spent the past decade or so at two different broadcast networks (NBC, then Fox), and before that in cable (at FX). What's next?

I think we've checked [broadcast] off the list. (Laughs.) I'm a believer in broadcast. This is an incredible seat to have, even in this day and age of a complex media landscape. But for me, I've done it now for over 10 years between here and NBC; I was at my 11th broadcast network upfront this year and I was starting to feel like (trails off). I've had interesting conversations over the last 12 months and there's a lot — it's a dynamic business right now. I feel there is, for me now, something else to maybe be done.

Is a traditional cable network appealing, or are you more interested in trying to go to a digital player like Amazon or Hulu?

Part of what has made my job in this chair more challenging is also part of what makes it exciting to me as I turn the page. There's a whole host of new players existing now and that will be coming in to the landscape soon. I think that part is really what is exciting for me. Whether it's a more traditional company, and I'm by no means [ruling that out] — I've spent most of my career at a big media company; I'm comfortable there.

You've spent the last six months publicly talking about reinventing the pilot system. What will come of that initiative now?

I hope it's the beginning of a dialogue. I never felt it was any sort of prophetic thing, and the pilot season that became the peg of everything [reported about my comments] was not really the entire story. I feel for broadcast that there are other, scrappier systems, beginning with cable and extending into some of the new services that I think move in a contemporary fashion, and for me I felt like broadcast needed to catch up. It's been fun; I love the fact that Fox culture here encourages you to go do that and make those kind of waves, and I hope it's the beginning of change and not the end of it, even though I'm going to let somebody else push that boulder up the hill. (Laughs.) I was feeling a little bit like Sisyphus.

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Are there things you point to and wish you had done differently? Decisions you think would have changed this outcome?

Not at this juncture. I really have no burning regrets — it's actually one of the reasons why I feel so good today. It's very nice to be part of an organization that you enjoyed and respected. To look at the work and say, "Yeah, there's a million things we did right and there's things that keep me up at night tossing and turning, 'Why did we do that? Why did we do this?' " But there are not any big, burning regrets right now. You wish you could always move the needle on some things. I wish that the contemporary landscape of audience measurement started moving very, very fast. We haven't been able to really tell that story properly. That becomes difficult. This is a disconnect between the way half the audience is watching and what we currently talk about. You have things like that. But I'm sitting here in a place where I'm happy to say I don't have the burning regrets. It's really been a great experience for me.

There were rumblings out of upfronts about internal division between you and your boss, Peter Rice, about some comedy choices for next season. How real was that? Did it impact this decision?

No. That was really conjecture, and we've never operated that way here. Peter and I have been simpatico since the day he walked in the door. I am really happy to say that political friction is really not a part of my experience at Fox. I can say that walking down the halls of the network and walking into the corporate suites, I never had to put one second of bandwidth on that. That is a really big testament to the culture here. That [rumor] got out ahead of itself because I think there were some pieces of business that were presumed to be locks on the schedule that went the other way at the 11th hour, and people were looking for explanations. I've also had some off-the-record conversations — and Peter and I have been talking about this for a bit — and he started to make a few calls, and all of a sudden things were in motion and dots started to be connected. But this is the clean juncture to do it. We've got our fall stuff teed up and identified, and it's all off to a very good start. The staff is in place and strong. We've done some restructuring, which is clean and done. This is as clean a place as you're going to get to do some sort of a handoff.

Have you spoken to some of your big producers with new shows about what this means for them and their projects?

I haven't had a chance. I'm going to start doing that whole thing now.