Fox's Mike Darnell, Alternative Programming Chief, Exiting Network

Longtime president of alternative entertainment announces he's leaving at the end of his current contract

Fox's president of alternative entertainment, Mike Darnell, has announced his departure.

The executive will be exiting the network at the end of June, Fox announced on Friday.

“I’m extremely grateful that Fox has offered me a new long term contract (and anyone who knows me won’t believe I’m saying this), but I’ve decided it’s time for a change,” Darnell said in a statement.

“With my current deal ending in June, and having been here for 18 years (kind of a record in Hollywood), I had to make a decision: either stay (and basically admit to myself I was going to retire at Fox… not a terrible choice) or leave and try something new. I’ve been in ‘Reality’ since before it was even called that, and it has truly been an amazing ride.

However, the world has changed drastically over the last few years and now with hundreds of channels and limitless ways to watch television, I’ve decided this was the perfect time to take advantage of the rapidly changing marketplace.

To say I am going to miss everyone here and that the people at Fox are like a family to me would be the understatement of the decade.  I have so many people to thank (and I will call all of you!), but first and foremost, I want to thank Kevin Reilly, Peter Rice, Chase Carey and Rupert Murdoch for all their amazing support over these many years.”

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Darnell led "American Idol" to an astonishing eight-year run as the top show on television, which ended only last year when it was bumped by NBC's "Sunday Night Football." It helped inspire a slew of other musical competitions around the globe, including Simon Cowell's "X Factor," which launched a U.S. edition on Fox in 2011.

It also reinvigorated the careers of Paula Abdul, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, and made stars of Cowell and Randy Jackson. In its eleventh year, the show continues to earn enviable ratings, despite its slide since last season.

Under his watch, the network took bigger risks on its unscripted fare and saw successes with its Gordon Ramsay culinary franchise, including "Hell's Kitchen."

“Mike has been a trailblazer for the entire industry and has made innumerable contributions to the growth and success of the network over the past two decades," said Fox Networks Group's chairman Peter Rice.

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"His passion for – and dedication to – television knows no bounds. He is like a member of the family, and FOX won’t be the same without him. While we wish he would’ve stayed forever, we regretfully accept his decision.”

Chairman and CEO of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch added, “Mike took risks at a critical time and was a pioneering force in shaping the reality programming genre that exists today. He’s a smart and fearless executive who will be missed."

Darnell's replacement has not been announced.

Tim Molloy contributed to this report.