News Corp. has launched a third television production studio to supply its growing number of distribution channels, which include the Fox broadcast network, the nation's largest TV station group, five cable services and scores of international channels.
The new structure is believed to be the first of its kind within the major-studio structure. The experimental arm will be designed as a sort of farm team where young writers and producers can get the attention they wouldn't under the traditional studio system.
"We are trying to invent the next century's production company," said Peter Chernin, president of News Corp. "One of the biggest questions facing the television business is, 'Where is product going to come from for all these outlets, with fragmentation continuing with digital expansion?' "
The new group, called Fox Television Studios, will be run by David Grant, who was at Fox Broadcasting for nine years before becoming chief operating officer of Tele-TV, the ailing phone company video service.
Chernin said the new studio will house a handful of niche "production pods" that will concentrate primarily on low-cost experimental programming to serve alternative outlets owned by Fox and others.
"On the network side, the stakes are so high that you don't want to take the risks," Chernin said. "The five or six dominant players that are developing in the entertainment business are the enemy of creativity. This is designed to keep it entrepreneurial and creative."
Chernin declined to say how many people would work at the new studio or how much money News Corp. would invest in it.
As part of the arrangement, Fox has agreed to finance a new production venture formed by Bob Greenblatt, the former second-in-command at Fox Entertainment, and David Janollari, formerly the No. 2 executive at Warner Bros. Television. Between them, the two executives have helped develop a raft of hits, including Fox's "King of the Hill," "Beverly Hills, 90210," and "X-Files" and Warner Bros.' "The Drew Carey Show," "Friends" and "Veronica's Closet."
The team will focus on prime-time production, signing their own writers as well as drawing on 20th Century Fox Television, the in-house studio that supplies the broadcast networks. Twentieth has signed a raft of writers, but many of them are inexperienced and need help shaping material.
Fox's other television studio is 20th Television, which supplies syndicated programs to the nation's TV stations.