Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly is leaving.
The surprise news comes on the heels of the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers two weeks ago, and at the end of a season in which Fox landed second in the key 18-49 demographic. Former ratings juggernaut “American Idol” has been on a ratings slide, and the network canceled its other singing competition, “The X Factor,” earlier this year.
Reilly’s biggest success this season was the breakout first-year drama “Sleepy Hollow.” NFL games also helped the network.
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A successor has not yet been named for Reilly, who joined the network in 2007 and assumed the position of chairman of entertainment in 2012. As the network seeks a replacement, senior executives will report to Fox Networks Group chairman and CEO Peter Rice.
“While difficult decisions have to be made every day, none have weighed more heavily on me than this,” Reilly said in a memo to staff. “The inspired Fox leadership, coupled with your commitment to excellence at FBC, has provided one of the most rewarding chapters in my life.”
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“As invigorating as all that is to be a part of, we all know the daily feeding of the network beast and early morning ritual of waking to an overnight report card does breed a certain type of mania,” Reilly said. “My first boss, Brandon Tartikoff, described presiding over a broadcast network as “the worst best job in the world.” I remember coming up in the business and seeing how the grind turned some executives into grizzled cynics. And I vowed to never become that guy.”
Reilly, who recently announced the network’s decision to remove itself from the traditional pilot season, ended his note with the postscript, “Don’t go back to pilot season.”
Rice noted Thursday that Reilly has been “discussing [Reilly’s] desire for a new challenge for some time” and that the post-upfront period was “the right time” for Reilly to begin his exit.
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“Kevin and I have been discussing his desire for a new challenge for some time, so while everyone at the network will miss his enthusiasm for adventurous television, we all respect his decision and agreed that after the upfront presentation was the right time,” Rice said. “I’m personally extremely grateful to Kevin for his partnership during the past five years and look forward to working with him again in the future.”
“Peter and I have been discussing this transition for a while, and now with a robust new slate of programming for next season and strength in the FBC ranks, it felt like the timing was as right as it could be,” Reilly added. “I couldn’t be more thankful to my team – a group of creative, tireless and fun people whose fellowship I will miss.”
Reilly came to Fox from NBC, where he served as president of entertainment and brought series such as “The Office,” “The Biggest Loser” and “Heroes” to the air. Prior to that, he was at Fox’s cable station FX, at a time when the network was establishing itself as a groundbreaking outlet with dramas such as “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck.”