In a conference call with reporters following the announcement of Fox Television Group, a unit combining Fox and 20th Century Fox TV that will be run by the studio’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman, the duo stressed that each company will continue to operate independently going forward, with each having its own P&L and management team. However, there will be synergies. “They will have shared creative and financial goals: to create more hits and, with the benefit of more collaboration and a more streamlined approach to development, create more hits together,” Newman said. “We’re a mature industry-leading studio that will continue to produce for multiple networks with a greater focus now on providing FBC with the best possible shows.”
Upon starting their new expanded duties on July 28, Walden and Newman plan “to be involved both companies,” Newman said. There are no plans for bring in a president of entertainment at Fox or make executive changes for the time being. The network’s top programming executive is COO Joe Earley, who was given development oversight a few months ago. “He has been doing a fantastic job, and there is a terrific executive team at Fox,” Walden said. “There are no immediate plans to bring anyone new.” Still, the two will take some time “to immerse ourselves in the culture at Fox and make recommendations,” Walden said, vowing a hands-on involvement, including hearing pitches. Over at the studio, Walden noted the recent promotions of Jonathan Davis to President of Creative Affairs and Howard Kurtzman to President, Business Operation, indicating that the two would be asked to step up to cover more ground as their bosses expand responsibilities.
Walden said that she and Newman approached Rice with the idea of aligning the studio and the network when Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly stepped down. Walden herself had been approached about running Fox before but turned down job, which went to Reilly. “I have never been interested in a job running the network that would force me to leave the studio Gary and I have spent 15 years building and have a tremendous amount of passion for,” she said. Things were different this time. “We saw that to remain competitive, it was time that we unified our network and studio,” Walden said. “We can develop the best programming together by working more efficiently together, by making the process smoother and more seamless for our creative partners and by bringing some of the studio’s ‘talent first’ producer mentality to the network. When a writer walks in the door with an idea, we’ll now be able to present a singular point of view which should offer tremendous reassurances to the talent.”
There had been some tension between Fox and 20th TV over the past few years when the network would not pick up shows that are important to the studio financially, like the cancellation of Terra Nova, while sticking with lower-rated series from other studios, like Warner Bros TV’s Fringe, and leaning more on outside suppliers than its own studio in new series orders. Aligning the two companies does not mean that “every 20th show will get picked up,” Newman said, noting that the duo plan to take a holistic approach and evaluate digital performance and auxiliary opportunities before making decisions. “The best shows are going to win,” he said. But Newman noted that when “there is passion for shows on the bubble,” there will be a role for “financial intensives that do not exist when you don’t have ownership.” In the end, “our ultimate goal is a thriving network and a continued flow of hit programming from the studio, feeding the Fox pipeline from platform to platform in the U.S. and around the world,” Newman said.