Media baron Rupert Murdoch announced Wednesday a master plan to combine under one corporate umbrella his newly acquired 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and the six Metromedia television stations that he is purchasing.
The plan, billed as a major restructuring, unveiled a new operating division to be called Fox Television Network. Observers expect the division to handle future development of programming for Fox's own and, potentially, for other independent stations around the country.
Barry Diller, head of the studio for the past year, will be chairman and chief executive of the consolidated enterprise, named Fox Inc. As such he will oversee the broad spectrum of the combined Murdoch properties.
Besides Fox Network, the consolidated enterprise will have two other principal operating groups: 20th Century Fox Film and Fox Station Group. The changes are subject to Federal Communications Commission approval of Murdoch's purchase of the Metromedia stations.
The announcement also disclosed that Alan Horn has been named president and chief operating officer of 20th Century Fox Film, with "all principal officers" reporting to him. That makes him second only to Diller in authority.
Horn has been chairman and chief executive of Embassy Communications, which was purchased recently by Coca-Cola Co. from entertainment executives Norman Lear and A. Jerrold Perenchio. At Embassy, he initiated such hit TV series as "Diff'rent Strokes" and "The Facts of Life," as well as overseeing completion of several theatrical films, including "The Emerald Forest."
Fox's announcement made it clear that Horn will be taking on Diller's cloak of authority in running Fox Film's continuing motion picture and television production.
"With the addition of the Fox Station Group and our plans for the development of the Fox Television Network," Diller said, "it is clearly necessary to have a key senior executive in charge of the day-to-day operations of 20th Century Fox Film Corp." He added that the studio, which has lost money recently, is "poised for considerable growth in the future" and that he believes that Horn "will be instrumental in ensuring that future."
The announcement said Lawrence Gordon will continue as president and chief operating officer of the entertainment group. Gordon recently denied rumors that he might leave the studio.
Jonathan Dolgen will continue in his present position as executive vice president of Fox Film "with increased responsibilities," the announcement said.
It added that Dolgen will be executive vice president of Fox Inc. and will work with Murdoch and Diller in matters directly pertaining to Fox Station Group and Fox Television Network.
The new television network organization seems to crystallize what has been widely expected in the entertainment industry: a move by Murdoch and perhaps others to forge an operation combining a film production facility and a sufficient number of independent TV stations, presumably achieving economies in providing films and other "product" for a formal or informal network of broadcasters.
Diller said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he and Murdoch "believe there is an opportunity now and in the future for network services."
He said it probably will be late 1986 or early 1987 "before any networking begins" at Fox.
Noting that the six TV stations being acquired, including KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles, cover 22% of the television audience in the country, Diller said that can be "the foundation of the ability to provide a networking service."
But he said the phrase "fourth network" is "irrelevant" and "a little grand" to describe it, adding:
"We think the opportunity exists, both in the rise of independent stations across the U.S. and the very full advertiser economy, and we feel that we can offer competitive programs."