Fox announced today that Kevin Reilly, the network's entertainment chairman, is stepping down after seven years at the network. So what challenges does the network have ahead of it as it faces a leadership change?
Reilly came to Fox first as entertainment president and then rose to chairman in 2012. Hollywood Reporter's Lacey Rose wrote that rumors of a change up top for the network were in the air at upfronts earlier this month considering a "handful of Reilly's comedies didn't appear on the schedule as many expected." She added: "Others note that Reilly, a favorite among TV reporters for his candor, had grown removed from the creative process, rarely sitting in on pitches and often weighing in late in the development cycle." As for who will take his place, some have speculated that it will be FX's John Landgraf, Dana Walden of 20th Century Fox Television, or Fox Broadcasting COO Joe Earley. They'll have to deal with some of the question marks lingering over the network.
Fox's one-time reality goliath is falling. "The network's longtime ratings engine, 'American Idol,' fell apart this year, losing nearly half of its audience compared to its 2013 run," the Los Angeles Times' Meg James wrote when evaluating Reilly's departure. "The aging show, which once drew more than 25 million viewers an episode, mustered about 8 million viewers as it reached its finale earlier this month." During upfronts week, Reilly touted that Idol would be "streamlined" next season, with fewer hours of the show airing. Reilly, meanwhile, is banking on reality show Utopia during the fall season, airing it twice in a week.
Drama With the Dramas
The search for Fox's next big hit is on. Whereas the network used to win the adults 18-49 demographic, their streak ended in the 2012-2013. "In the just-concluded season, Fox managed to stay in second (this time behind NBC) but that was thanks to the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game," Cynthia Littleton of Variety wrote. "In regular-program averages, Fox placed fourth this season — down 23% year-over-year and showing declines on every night of the week."
Rose noted that, aside from Sleepy Hollow, the network "failed to add any new bona-fide hits this past year." Glee ,one of the highlights of Reilly's tenure at the network, faltered in the ratings, and buzz could not hold up for The Following. In the fall, the network's highest profile drama is Batman prequel series Gotham. Can the caped crusader be the network's superhero?
Reilly made a big statement back in January by saying that Fox was going to "bypass" pilot season, in favor of a model that more resembles cable TV's system of developing shows year round. As Vultures' Joe Adalian wrote: "While Reilly’s method isn’t financially much of a risk, it leaves him vulnerable should it fail to produce more hits than the old way. Reilly counters that it’s not like the current system is yielding much success." In the memo Reilly sent to Fox staffers announcing his departure (via Variety) he said as a P.S.: "Don’t go back to pilot season!"