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Dana Walden and Gary Newman are adding network chief to their collective résumés.
The move comes more than a month after Fox Broadcasting Chairman Kevin Reilly announced he’d be exiting a position he had held for seven years. Walden, who was widely suspected to get the gig in the days following Reilly’s news, and her fellow 20th Century Fox TV chairman and CEO bring with them nearly 50 years of combined experience at the studio, during which time they have been intimately involved in such hits as The X-Files, Ally McBeal, 24, Family Guy and Glee. As part of the new arrangement, the pair will maintain oversight of the studio, too, with titles as chairmen and CEO of a newly formed division of the Fox Networks Group entitled Fox Television Group. Effective later this month, Walden and Newman will report to FNG chairman Peter Rice.
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The delay speaks to the challenges of putting together a deal of this size and scope, with multiple sources suggesting Walden was seeking such things as ultimate creative control. And she is believed to have had considerable leverage given her value atop the lucrative studio. The other name that gained early traction — and heavy interest from News Corp. brass — following Reilly’s announcement in May was Gail Berman, who had run the network years earlier. When a deal didn’t come together for Berman, she was granted a rich pact for her newly created production company, The Jackal Group, which will develop and produce programming for all of the Fox Network Group’s channels.
As heads of the studio, a job Walden and Newman shared for some 15 years, they’ve transformed 20th TV from an also-ran into a destination known for big swings, artistic risks and a stable of A-list creators such as Ryan Murphy, Howard Gordon and Steve Levitan. In that tenure, they have championed a wide range of shows, some that have proved Emmy darlings (Homeland) and others ratings behemoths (Modern Family). Though early speculation had centered only on Walden, multiple sources said Walden insisted that Newman join her. The partners often refer to each other as the other’s work wife or work husband and having control over both a network and a studio could be that much more manageable with two people in the job.
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“As we look to the future of the broadcast television business, it is clear that the best path forward is to operate our creative and broadcast divisions under the leadership of a single team, and that Gary and Dana are the perfect executives to take on this new role,” said 21st Century Fox President Chase Carey in a statement Monday. “While TCFTV and FBC will each continue as an open supplier and an open network, respectively, the closer alignment of these two properties, coupled with a unified vision from Dana and Gary, gives us a clear advantage in creating even more hit content that will benefit both businesses. We are incredibly fortunate to have two such accomplished leaders already under our roof to take on these important new roles.”
Given their track record, some wondered whether 21st Century Fox brass would be willing to let the pair take its eye off of 20th TV, which is a far more lucrative asset than the network. And it wasn’t entirely clear the gig would be appealing to Walden and Newman either. Running a broadcast network would require a sizable lifestyle shift, headaches about fractured viewership and antiquated business models that ultimately drove Reilly out — not to mention, the kind of job insecurity with which both executives are unfamiliar. At the same time, the position offers a higher public profile, that much more power and an opportunity to turn around an ailing network that is likely alluring to execs with Walden’s and Newman’s ambition. This marks the first time Fox has had an exec — or in this case, execs — with combined oversight of both the network and the studio since Sandy Grushow’s tenure a decade earlier.
Walden and Newman’s work will be cut out for them at Fox, which has suffered dramatic losses fueled by the sinking ship that is American Idol and has lacked the kind of building blocks of late that helped turn around NBC. The network rounded out the season flat in the key 18-49 demographic despite airing the Super Bowl — and again lost the demo crown that Fox had handily won for nearly a decade. Outside of genre play Sleepy Hollow, it failed to add any new bona fide hits this past year, relying instead on critically beloved niche comedies (The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), shrinking dramas (Glee, The Following) and that aging reality franchise. To be sure, not having a network chief in place in recent weeks as Fox readied its next batch of series hopefuls for a fall launch was hardly ideal. Development, too, has been impacted as it hasn’t been clear what new direction the network will take.
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What all of this will mean for Reilly’s initiative to move away from pilot season and rethink the broadcast model remains to be seen. On the day he announced his resignation, Reilly told The Hollywood Reporter that he hoped that his successor would remain committed to a plan that he believed would keep broadcast relevant. “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,” he said, adding with laughter: “I was feeling a little bit like Sisyphus.” Weeks later, Walden and Rice collectively decided to pull one of his straight-to-series bets, Hieroglpyh, with insiders suggesting the period drama’s pilot episode came in a “costly” creative “mess.” What does seem likely to happen in the new setup is for 20th TV to become much more focused on selling to its sister network.
Walden, a Los Angeles native, got her start in PR as an assistant to Larry Goldman, a partner in the firm Bender, Goldman & Helper. After half a decade at the firm, where she rose to vice president, she took a gig handling marketing and communications for Arsenio Hall. It was there that she met Lucy Salhany, who would later recruit her to 20th Century Fox Television, where she would spend years handling PR for the studio. Within some two years, the now married mother of two made the move to the creative side and has since been particularly well known for her strong creative relationships as well as her admirable programming instincts.
For his part, Newman, also Los Angeles bred, came up by way of business affairs. He joined 20th TV in 1990 in that capacity, and rose swiftly to become the top ranking business officer at the studio. Prior to his 20th tenure, the Yale alum worked in the legal department of Columbia Pictures Television and then spent six years in business affairs at NBC. There had been speculation that Newman, who owns a vineyard with his high-powered attorney wife, Jeanne, had planned to retire at the conclusion of his current contract. Among Newman’s strengths: creative dealmaking, as evidenced by his move to revive Seth MacFarlane‘s Family Guy to huge results years earlier.
The pair added in a joint statement: “The time is right to unite these divisions. Television has never been more creatively vibrant and the business has never been more dynamic. Our goal is to make FBC the number one destination for creators with big visions and bold ideas, because our guiding principle has always been ‘talent first.’ We are humbled by the challenges and exhilarated by the opportunities ahead. It’s an exciting time.”
Read Walden and Newman’s memo to the staff below:
Today begins an exciting new chapter in the history of our two great companies, Twentieth Century Fox Television and Fox Broadcasting Company. In this incredibly dynamic television landscape, uniting these two companies under one management will foster more successful collaboration among our executives and create greater paths to success for our creative partners. We are humbled by the challenge, energized by the opportunities and emboldened by the fact that we’ll be joined by such talented executives on both sides of the organization. ??
To our colleagues at the studio, you are responsible for the incredible growth and success of Twentieth Century Fox Television over the past fifteen years and we are so proud of all we’ve accomplished together. As we move forward, we will look to each of you to step up and take on even greater leadership. You’ve established an environment where creators are free to develop their biggest and boldest ideas, and we’ve placed those projects where they have had the best chance to succeed. That will not change. We’ll continue to support the visions of our creators, wherever they may lead us. ??
To our colleagues at the network, we couldn’t be more excited to be joining you later this month. We have a long history of creating and nurturing culturally-defining programming together, from The Simpsons to The X-Files to Glee to name just a few. And over the years you have enjoyed tremendous success with iconic programming from outside suppliers and have fantastic relationships with creators and production companies all over town. Be assured the network will remain committed to developing the boldest ideas, no matter the sources. We want the best shows on FBC, period. A thriving FBC will mean a more fertile ground to nurture the passion projects of all creators. ??
We are also happy to be joining Peter Rice’s team of extraordinarily talented managers at Fox Networks Group. We’ve had wonderful relationships in the past and our new structure means even more collaboration in the future, which will benefit the studio and the network.??
So now, we ask you to join us as the real work begins. We look forward to leading this new Fox TV Group to greater heights than either company has achieved singularly. And we’ll do it together.
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