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Fox Expected to Name Cable Exec as President

November 17, 1998|SALLIE HOFMEISTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In another sign of the blurring of lines between the cable and network television businesses, Doug Herzog, the president and chief executive of Comedy Central, is expected to be named president of the Fox Entertainment Group today, becoming the first executive to be recruited for this position directly from a cable network.

Herzog, who has no broadcasting experience, became the envy of many television executives last season with the breakout success of "South Park" on Comedy Central. He will replace Peter Roth, who announced his resignation on Monday.

Roth has been dogged for months by speculation that he would be ousted, despite his success during his two-year tenure in leading the network to record performance in the prime-time ratings. In its best results ever, Fox finished in second place last season, behind NBC, in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic group.

Fox said Monday that Roth plans to return to television production, where he has distinguished himself. Before rising to president of entertainment at Fox, Roth was president of 20th Century Fox Television, the production arm of Fox Broadcasting, where such hits as "The X-Files," "Chicago Hope" and "King of the Hill" have made a fortune.

Fox has scored with animated series such as "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill," and in "Ally McBeal" it has one of the few hits to emerge in recent years. But the network has failed to develop any live-action comedy series to fill the void left by the departure of "Married . . . With Children." Roth has canceled all but one of the new comedies developed for this season.

Comedy is Herzog's strength. "South Park," the cartoon about a pack of schoolkids whose crude language and crassness would never make it onto a broadcast network, became the highest-rated regular series on cable last season and now reaches an average of 6 million viewers per episode.

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Times staff writer Brian Lowry contributed to this article.

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