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Ex-NBC exec is hired by Fox

July 10, 2007|Joseph Menn | Times Staff Writer

Fox Broadcasting Co. named Kevin Reilly as its chief entertainment scheduler Monday, less than six weeks after his ouster as the top programmer at fourth-place NBC.

To make room for Reilly, the News Corp. division bumped up Peter Liguori to chairman of Fox, where he will spend more time extending the network's programs to the Web and mobile phones.

Liguori has drawn fire for failing to come up with another blockbuster like "American Idol," the sensation he inherited when he became Fox Entertainment president two years ago. The singing contest has kept the network at the top of the prime-time ratings with younger viewers.

Reilly, who joined NBC in 2004, achieved modest success by bringing to the air such programs as "The Office," "My Name is Earl" and "Heroes." But he was dumped this summer as NBC stagnated in fourth place and was replaced by wunderkind Ben Silverman, the producer behind such hits as ABC's "Ugly Betty" and "The Office."

Reilly began talking with Fox shortly after severing ties with NBC but told friends he had no interest in helping to force out Liguori, who had been his boss when the two executives worked together at News Corp.'s FX cable channel. "I wouldn't have taken this job, given what I just went through at NBC, without Peter Liguori," Reilly said in an interview.

The pair are credited with propelling FX with popular shows including "The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck." They held the same roles at FX as they will at Fox, with Liguori serving as chief executive and Reilly as entertainment president. "We're going to do it the same way we did at FX," Liguori said. "Kevin is an unparalleled creative executive."

Liguori said their shared vision and lack of political tension would make projects easier to develop.

Liguori also pointed to the rapid changes in technology that have made managing a major network more complex. "To hit on all cylinders, I'm going to need to spend a little more time dealing with the nonlinear digital aspects" of News Corp., Liguori said.

Reilly said he had no plans for a change in direction at Fox but hoped to use the company's marketing muscle to bring shows along, as it has done with initially small entries like "House."

"They have been unable to create a new hit series in the last couple years," said analyst Laura Martin of Soleil/Media Metrics. "They need to use that 'American Idol' lead-in to create viewing in a new series."

Martin said Reilly might help Fox manage that task. "Creative people are often better in teams, and the recombination of these two might create value where separately they did not."

Also Monday, News Corp. gave the two longtime leaders of its television production unit the new title of chairman.

Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who had been presidents since 1999, will be elevated to the same level as Liguori, with all three reporting to News Corp. President Peter Chernin.

The studio is responsible for such hits as "24," "The Simpsons" and "My Name Is Earl" and is credited with such innovations as releasing seasons of TV series on DVDs.

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