In his opening remarks, Newman talked up New Fox, the company comprised of the remaining Fox divisions — Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News, national sports networks and owned-and-operated stations. It will be a “very robust, nimble company,” he said.
The network’s lineup at the close of the Disney deal — expected in 12-18 months — will not look much different, Newman said following the presentation. There would be changes four to five years down the road, he added, likely with fewer series coming from Fox’s current sibling 20th Century Fox TV, which would become part of Disney.
“There are no current plans to move Fox shows to ABC,” Walden said during the presentation.
Walden reiterated what Fox bosses stated during a town hall meeting the day the Disney-Fox deal was announced last month — that FBC will stick with entertainment programming post separation with 20th TV, which produces the vast majority of the network’s scripted programming.
21st Century Fox topper Rupert Murdoch “sees an enormous opportunity” in New Fox and the new FBC, Walden said, adding that there has been “a little bit of confusion” following comments by Murdoch that the company will have a focus on live and sports programming. She said that referred to the larger New Fox amalgam of assets, driven by Fox News, FS1 and FS2.
While Fox has become a very vertically integrated network that relies greatly on its in-house studio, the future FBC will work more closely with independents such as Warner bros. TV, Sony TV and Lionsgate TV, which have been put at a disadvantage by the rise in vertical integration. “There will be a great opportunity for these companies to be advantaged at a network,” Newman said.
He did not rule out the possibility that New Fox, flush with cash from the asset sale to Disney, could use some of it to buy a TV studio or invest in the launch of one designed to supply FBC.
“One of the exciting things about New Fox is that they can do anything they want,” Newman said.
In lieu to straight-out acquiring an independent studio, the network also could forge a preferred relationship with one.
While not owning content would impact monetization beyond linear airing, there are other ways for a broadcast network to benefit financially from airing high-profile expensive programming it does mot own, Newman said after the session, including via negotiating retransmission-consent fees.
For the time being, it will be business as usual, Newman and Walden reiterated multiple times during the Q&A. They are reading pilot scripts and plan to order a number of pilots similar to last season and then make pickup decisions and present a fall schedule at the upfronts in May.
As for what happens to 20th TV and its slate after it becomes part of Disney, “there haven’t been any creative conversations about content at all,” Newman said. He as well as Walden noted that Disney brass had said that they “admire the Fox brand of programming.”
“We have every expectation that they are not acquiring Fox to turn it into some form of PG company or Disney-fy it, as [Disney CEO] Bob Iger put it,” Newman said. “They are excited about the additional scale the deal will provide.”
And then there is the future of Walden and Newman, who oversee both FBC, which will remain a part of New Fox, and 20th TV, which is going to Disney. Their contracts are up in the summer, so they will have to make a decision on what to do next before the Disney-Fox deal goes through.
Walden in particular — a rare CEO-level female TV executive — has been rumored for a slew of big jobs, including running Amazon Studios, and there also is speculation that she is being courted by the Disney leadership for a prominent role in the merged TV operation.
“I’ll clearly have a difficult decision to make,” Walden said after the panel. “I love this company, I’ve spent 26 years here. I love the team. Gary and I had a hand in putting virtually every person in place; I’m very committed to them. I would not speculate right now about leaving or frankly anything about the work that it is at hand. I will tell you though that we’re very focused on the work that we’re doing at the company.”
Newman meanwhile, was the one who spoke in more detail about the plans for FBC post-Disney deal, leading to a question whether that was a hint that he may be staying put. (There indeed has been speculation that he might stay behind and steer FBC, at least during the transition to what the network will ultimately become without 20th TV as a partner.).
“I did not mean to give any hints as to what future might be,” he said. “I’ve worked at the company for 28 years. Whether we end up at Disney, stay at Fox or move on — for the next 12 months, we are committed to Fox.”
He and Walden both stressed that there is no timeline on them making a decision on what they will do.