Duo tells TheWrap they approached Chase Carey and Peter Rice the day that Kevin Reilly resigned
Dana Walden and Gary Newman have a plan to manage both Fox's broadcast network and their studio: “Divide and conquer,” as the latter put it on a Monday conference call.
Per an earlier announcement, Walden and Newman will oversee a new business unit, Fox Television Group, which combines Fox Broadcasting Company and 20th Century Fox Television. They'll start the new dual gig on July 28.
Any additional restructuring on the broadcast side has yet to be determined, Walden told reporters in the call that followed: “What we'd really like to do is spend some time over there, immerse ourselves in the culture, see what works, what doesn't work.” One colleague who has their confidence, Walden said, is COO Joe Earley, who saw his role expanded in March.
This isn't the first time that Fox has seen the same leadership on the broadcast and studio sides: Sandy Grushow headed both the Fox network and Fox studios in the late 1990s. ”That was a very long time ago — particularly in terms of television era,” Walden said, pointing out that the studio worked with four networks at the time. This year they've dealt with 16 outlets for their programming.
It's also not the first time that Walden has been approached for the Fox Broadcasting Company job. Walden had previously been averse to moving to the broadcast side, which she saw as a lateral move. “I have never been interested in being the president of a broadcast network which would force me to leave the studio,” Walden said. ”This is an opportunity to help strengthen the network by … continuing to build at the studio.”
Walden also touted this as an opportunity to work in unscripted TV, specifying the upcoming “Utopia”: ”I'm incredibly excited to work in reality, that's not a genre the studio has worked in in a while.”
Finally, Walden helped clear up the timing of Kevin Reilly's departure and her and Newman's announcement for TheWrap.
“Gary and I approached Chase Carey and Peter Rice the day that Kevin's announcement ran,” Walden told TheWrap. “We were honestly surprised by it, we weren't expecting Kevin to make that decision at the point he did. But once he made that decision it seemed like a perfect opportunity to discuss how our companies aligned, how the business has changed, what are structural advantages in this new company that we established.
“Then it honestly took a very short period of time — within five weeks — for us to go through a very thorough analysis of whether this is in the best interest of both companies,” Walden continued. “Can the studio remain independent? Can the network remain an open buyer, trying to spend some time with Peter Rice so that we're in sync on what our objectives are for FBC and to get his thoughts on the studio and its operations in the coming 5-10 years. So, we wanted to be thoughtful about this … this was not a quick decision.”
Reilly resigned as network chief at the end of May.