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Brad Grey President Reilly to Head FX Entertainment Division

August 17, 2000|SALLIE HOFMEISTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kevin Reilly resigned Wednesday as president of Brad Grey Television, the TV production arm of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, to become president of entertainment at News Corp.'s FX cable channel.

Reilly, who had just signed a new two-year contract in May with Brillstein-Grey, will be succeeded by his two lieutenants. Peter Traugott and Susan Fitzgerald, who were instrumental in Brillstein-Grey's two big hits, "Just Shoot Me" and "The Sopranos," will become co-heads of Brad Grey Television. Before Brillstein-Grey, Fitzgerald spent 10 years at HBO, while Traugott was director of current programming at Fox.

Both those shows were developed under Reilly's six-year watch. "Just Shoot Me," on NBC, has made more than $300 million in syndication so far, making it the fourth-biggest winner among prime time shows launched in the last 10 years.

Despite its early success, Brillstein Grey has had several disappointing years, landing no prime time pickups for the coming network television season.

The trend among the networks to supply more of their own programming has reduced time periods for outside suppliers, including Brillstein-Grey. "In this day any unaligned company faces a lot of challenges," said Reilly, 37, who prior to Brillstein-Grey was an executive at NBC.

Industry executives say the company's development has also been sub-par and that a series of changes in its ownership have set it off course. Since 1995, Brillstein-Grey Entertainment has had equity or co-production partnerships with ABC, its parent the Walt Disney Co., Universal Studios and Sony. Currently, Sony funds the television operation through a 50-50 partnership that lasts for two more years.

Reilly joins FX at a time when the cable channel is on the rise. Since its launch in 1994, the channel has been among the most-hated among cable operators because of the stiff subscriber fees it has charged for little more than old reruns. Cable operators were forced to pick up the channel in exchange for the right to deliver the Fox television network to its customers.

After allowing the channel to languish, News Corp. began putting sports and top-flight reruns such as "NYPD Blue" and "X-Files" on the channel in a concerted effort to challenge general entertainment networks such as USA and TBS that are the most-watched in cable TV.

Under a new president, Peter Liguori, who joined last August, the channel has added more new subscribers than any other cable channel over the last year, reaching 53 million viewers today, up from 39 million last August.

Its prime time ratings among key 18- to 49-year-old viewers have jumped 47% over the last year, thanks to Fox-driven reruns such as "Married With Children." But now, the channel, for the first time, is investing heavily in original programming, with the new series "Son of the Beach" and its first original movie, "Deliberate Intent," starring Timothy Hutton, making ratings inroads for the network.

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