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Fox TV chiefs Dana Walden and Gary Newman on Wednesday revealed the secret to their successful 15-year partnership, jointly shouldering a Hollywood studio’s many failures, while sharing hard-won successes.
“In a business where there’s so much failure, it’s great to have someone at your side to shoulder the failure. And when you have a success, there’s plenty of credit for everyone to enjoy it,” Newman, co-chairmen and CEO at the Fox Television Group alongside Walden, told their joint keynote at MIPCOM.
For her part, Walden recalled then Fox entertainment chairman Peter Chernin seeing value in combining her own and Newman’s management skills to oversee the studio and network. There were early growing pains for their partnership.
“People are just wired to make quick decisions and act in autonomous ways, but over time we found the great benefit of both of our points of view, about decision-making, about running the business, about seeing the future,” she said.
Newman and Walden were named presidents of 20th Century Fox Television in 1999, before both took the helm at the Fox Television Group in July 2014, which added the Fox network to their portfolio. Walden said the benefits of partnership kick in especially during times of crisis.
“When you have one moment, and there’s pressure and stress in an organization and there’s one person who you can close the door and sit in a room with alone and strategize — it can’t be your subordinate, because that’s a different conversation, and it can’t be your superior, because that’s a different conversation,” she insisted.
“When you’re both in it together, great results come out of that room, and that’s what we’ve experienced over and over again,” Walden added.
One of those successes is Fox’s Empire. Newman recalled the original pitch for the hit drama from co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. “No one knows what will work and what won’t. But they came in and pitched just the most specific characters in what felt like an authentic world. While it was heightened, at its core it was very grounded in authenticity,” he recalled.
“You could play the show in your mind because they were being so specific,” Newman added.
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