Kevin Reilly is exiting his post as Chairman of Entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Co. The move, which comes with two years left on his current contract, comes amid a major ratings downside for the network and growing speculation during the past couple of months that he might depart after the end of the season. Reilly already shifted a significant part of his responsibilities to COO Joe Earley in March when the network’s development, previously reporting to Reilly, started to report to Earley, who could be a part of a succession plan, likely in the short run.
Reilly will remain at Fox for the transition and is expected to depart before the end of June, with his senior executives reporting to Peter Rice, chairman and CEO of Fox Network Group, until a replacement is found. (Rice also has been rumored to eventually move up at Fox, possibly returning to the film side.) slew of names are expected to start popping up, including 20th Century Fox chairman and CEO Dana Walden, who had long been rumored and possibly courted for a big job at the network, and another top executive in the Fox TV family, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf, though both currently have as big and arguably even bigger jobs than the one in the offing. One person who has held the top Fox programming job, Gail Berman, is available, with TNT and TBS programming chief Michael Wright also mentioned as a possibility.
“21st Century Fox is a great company that has provided me with choice seats at the head table of pop culture over two very rewarding stints both at FBC and FX, and I am grateful to have benefited from the leadership of Peter Rice, Chase Carey and Rupert Murdoch,” said Reilly. “Peter and I have been discussing this transition for a while, and now with a robust new slate of programming for next season and strength in the FBC ranks, it felt like the timing was as right as it could be. I couldn’t be more thankful to my team – a group of creative, tireless and fun people whose fellowship I will miss.” Said Rice: “Kevin’s undeniable creative gift and passion for talent have left an indelible mark on our company, and we’re extremely grateful to him for his leadership, beginning with The Shield and Nip/Tuck at FX and continuing through Glee, New Girl, The Following, Sleepy Hollow and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’m personally extremely grateful to Kevin for his partnership during the past five years and look forward to working with him again in the future.”
Reilly’s departure comes after a rocky season for Fox marked with steep ratings declines for a number of returning shows, led by cancelled The X Factor as well as American Idol, Glee and all comedies, with only one freshman series, fall drama Sleepy Hollow, delivering solid numbers. The Super Bowl couldn’t stem the downturn, which extended into spring and now summer, with Fox finishing Tuesday night behind NBC, ABC, CBS, Univision and Telemundo with an all-original lineup that averaged a dismal 0.5 in adults 18-49.
Reilly is leaving some major unfinished business at Fox. In January, he declared that Fox would be bypassing the traditional pilot season going forward. He put the plan into motion, with a number of projects being developed under that template now in limbo.
Reilly joined Fox after a stint as President of Entertainment at NBC, where he introduced such series as The Office, The Biggest Loser, Heroes, Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock before his abrupt 2007 ouster with more than two years left on his contract. Before that, Reilly ran programming for FX, where he developed such series as Nip/Tuck and The Shield. He previously was President of Brad Grey Television, where he shepherded The Sopranos.