Life of Reilly is circular
Rejoins News Corp. fold, boss as Fox Ent. chiefKevin Reilly's recent career moves have been framed by holidays.
On Memorial Day, the embattled NBC Entertainment president was handed his walking papers at NBC.
On the Fourth of July, he was deep in negotiations to join rival Fox Broadcasting Co., with the deal closing during the weekend.
Reilly officially was named Fox Entertainment president on Monday, and Peter Liguori, after serving as entertainment president for the past two years, has been upped to chairman.
As a result of the moves, Fox executive vp Craig Erwich is leaving the network.
Reilly's appointment not only brings the former FX entertainment president back into the News Corp. fold but reunites him with former FX president and CEO Liguori.
During their tenure at FX, Liguori and Reilly put the basic cable network on the map with such groundbreaking series as "The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck."
Liguori called the day in 2004 when Reilly left FX to join NBC "one of the darkest moments in my career." Less than a year later, he too left to take the entertainment reins at Fox.
But even as fierce direct competitors, the two never broke their close relationship, and when Reilly became available last month, Liguori went to News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin with the suggestion to bring him over.
"When Peter Liguori approached me with the idea of reteaming with Kevin Reilly, I thought it was a bold move to redefine the structure of the network behind a pair of dynamic executives who have a proven track record of advancing the medium," Chernin said.
Reilly admitted he didn't jump in right away.
"I wasn't looking for a job, and I certainly wasn't looking to go right back to network television," he said. "But when you get an opportunity to trade up in almost every aspect — joining the dominating network, getting to work with someone with whom you had the best chapter in your career and factoring in Peter Chernin, who has been so supportive — how do you say no to that?"
Reilly said that he is not planning any major changes in creative direction for the network, which has been No. 1 among adults 18-49 for three consecutive seasons.
"Look for big changes on 'The Simpsons,' " he quipped.
The setup at Fox, in which Reilly reports to Liguori, will closely resemble the way the two divided responsibilities at FX.
"I have so much respect for Kevin beyond his tremendous development skills," Liguori said. "He is also a good businessman, he is fun to be around, and I love collaborating with him on all levels."
As entertainment chairman, Liguori will expand his duties to include developing new models for exploiting Fox's broadcast content across emerging platforms.
Although his title is close to the TV entertainment group chairman moniker held by Sandy Grushow, Liguori will only oversee the Fox network and not 20th Century Fox TV, which is being run by newly named chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman.
In his rocky three-year tenure at NBC, Reilly, a well-regarded development executive, shepherded such successful series as the Emmy-winning comedy "The Office," "My Name Is Earl," "Heroes" and "Deal or No Deal" as well as the critically praised freshmen "Friday Night Lights" and "30 Rock."
He developed several of the series, including "Heroes" and "Lights," with Universal Media Studios senior vp drama Laura Lancaster, who recently joined Fox as head of drama and now will report to Reilly.
Scripted and current department heads previously reported to Erwich, but the reteaming of Reilly and Liguori didn't leave much room for the Fox veteran.
"There is no meaningful role for him at the network," Liguori said. "Craig is a beloved and respected executive within the ranks of Fox. He is an asset, and we're trying to figure out a way to keep him at (News Corp.)."
Erwich is in the midst of a multiyear contract he inked in March 2006. He has been a rising star at Fox since joining the network in 1995 as director of current drama programming.
"The company has been incredible in terms of affording me an opportunity for growth, but it now became clear that the opportunity for growth will become limited," Erwich said. "Part of growing up is leaving, and I felt like it was time to move on."
After taking time off to go river rafting, he plans to get back in the game and is in conversations about potential opportunities at other News Corp. entities.
As executive vp programming, a post he assumed in 2004, Erwich oversaw Fox's comedy and drama development as well as current programming. During his 12-year tenure at the network, he has been instrumental in developing such series as "24," "The O.C." and, "Prison Break."
Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth said he is a big fan of Erwich.
"He has brought dignity, integrity, passion and love for television that I admire," he said. As for Reilly's appointment at Fox, "I think that the partnering of Kevin and Peter is inspired," Roth said.