When the 20th Century Fox TV-produced broadcast drama pilot Mixtape did not make the cut to series at Fox, the executives at the broadcast-focused studio sprung into action. Teaming with their colleagues from 20th TV’s cable/streaming division, Fox 21 TV Studios, they pitched together the project to streaming platforms, landing a series order at Netflix.
The series, which will be produced by Fox 21 with involvement from 20th TV creative executives, is one of the first collaborations between the units as part of a shift and redrawing the lines at the major TV studio.
Based on an idea by Fox TV Group chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman and embraced by 20th TV and Fox 21 toppers, Jonnie Davis, Howard Kurtzman and Bert Salke, the new setup allows writers on the 20th TV roster to also develop series for cable and streaming with the studio’s executives. While more unlikely since most Fox 21 overall deals are cable/streaming-driven, writers under such deals also would be able to pursue ideas for broadcast shows.
In the past, 20th TV development executives may have been incentivized to steer a studio-based creator with a cable series idea to try and tweak it for broadcast or put it on the back burner in favor of another premise that could work on broadcast. Now 20th TV executives will consider both network and cable pitches the same. On projects better suited for cable/streaming, they will reach out to their Fox 21 counterparts and will develop and sell those together, with a possibility for the 20th TV execs to remain involved even after the project is set up at a cable network or an SVOD platform.
“We know that we have something unique to offer creators: the opportunity to work and deliver programming to virtually anywhere,” said Walden. Added Newman, “This is about extending that freedom to our executive teams as well; they are now able to freely develop without having to work inside segregated spaces.”
While the development process is changing, there are no plans to merge 20th TV and Fox 21 TV Studios, which was formed in late 2014 by melding Fox 21 and Fox TV Studios. The leaderships of both 20th TV (Davis and Kurtzman) and Fox 21 TV Studios (Salke) will remain intact. The move is not related to the pending acquisition of Fox’s production entities that are poised to become part of Disney or Comcast.
“This is all about being a great home for both our creative talent and our creative executives, about making the studios less siloed, and the process more cohesive,” Walden said. Added Newman, “It is about creating more opportunity and less rigidity.
Broadcast series for broadcast will continue to be produced under the 20th Century Fox Television banner; cable/streaming shows will continue to be produced under the Fox 21 TV Studios banner. The company’s animated series are being produced by the Animation division of 20th TV, so Central Park, the animated comedy projects created by Bob’s Burgers’ Loren Bouchard, which was originally developed by 20th TV for Fox, will remain a 20th TV production even after it landed a series order at Apple. But 20th TV Animation execs will be able to work in cooperation with Fox 21 when a creator under an overall there has an animated idea.
This is not an entirely new concept for 20th TV — for instance Homeland years ago was a spec script developed by 20th TV and pitched primarily to broadcast networks until the project was aggressively pursued by Showtime and became a premium series produced by Fox 21 TV Studios.
The shift underscores the increasing diversity of TV series buyers. While in the past broadcast was the main game in town, with a handful of cable networks tipping their toes into original scripted series, over the last five years there has been an explosion in the volume of scripted originals, driven mainly by the aggressive newcomers in the space — SVOD platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
With the tweaks at 20th TV/Fox 21, Fox will have three television units developing programming for all platforms — 20th TV, Fox 21 and the recently launched TV division of Fox Searchlight.