Fox TV Group Chairman and CEO Dana Walden Reveals the "Trap" of Live-Plus-Same-Day Ratings
"It felt hypocritical," the exec and THR Power 100 honoree says of her business' reliance on "irrelevant" numbers, as she celebrates the "extremely gratifying" success of juggernaut 'Empire' and her network's move out of last place.
This story first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Among many new feathers in her 2015 cap, Walden can take credit for launching the biggest broadcast hit in years. The chairman and CEO of Fox TV Group and her partner Gary Newman saw their first season as heads of the network (Fox Broadcasting Co.) and the studio (20th Century Fox Television) defined by the improbable rise of Empire. The Big Four's highest-rated series, it's averaging a 7.7 rating among adults 18-to-49 in live-plus-7. But the married mother of two daughters, who calls Empire's success "extremely gratifying," has not indulged in the luxury of a victory lap. She instead is focused on moving the chains — Fox recently climbed out of the No. 4 slot, replacing ABC as No. 3 despite misfires including Minority Report — and changing the conversation around what qualifies as a success in the contemporary broadcast landscape.
In November, Walden and Newman told their 7,300-plus staffers that the network was turning its back on live-plus-same-day ratings. "We're looking for growth over a seven-day period and, ultimately, a multiplatform picture of our shows," says Walden, citing the delayed-viewing uptick of Ryan Murphy's Scream Queens as just one piece of evidence that the morning-after ratings discussion is antiquated. "You find yourself in a trap when you're releasing — to your entire company and your creative partners — ratings that you're telling them are irrelevant. It felt hypocritical." Fox's total multiplatform audience is up 14 percent for the 2015-16 season. And that's a stat worth bragging about for a woman who controls companies that generate $7 billion in revenue and boast some of the biggest hits on competing networks such as Modern Family (ABC), American Horror Story (FX) and Homeland (Showtime).
WHAT I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "That the Internet, email and mobile phones were going to eventually kill any opportunity to truly unplug from work."
MOST HOLLYWOOD THING ABOUT MY LIFE "I work on a studio lot. You can't get more Hollywood than that."
MY FIRST JOB IN HOLLYWOOD "I was an assistant to Larry Goldman, a partner in Bender, Goldman and Helper, a PR firm. Unfortunately, Larry passed away recently. He taught me a lot about the business and the importance of showmanship."
GO-TO LUNCH SPOT "The Fox Commissary. Great food. Geographically desirable."
INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "Live-plus-same-day ratings — a demoralizing daily report card that's irrelevant."
Other Power Squad honorees: Shari Redstone, Bonnie Hammer, Elizabeth Banks, Cindy Holland, Kathleen Kennedy, Donna Langley, Nancy Dubuc, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer, Megyn Kelly, Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Ilene Chaiken, Taraji P. Henson, Barbara Broccoli