Fox Names Television Veteran to Lead Role -- WSJ

By Joe Flint Features Dow Jones Newswires

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (August 31, 2017).

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Fox Broadcasting has tapped a new head of entertainment on the eve of the 2017-18 television season.

David Madden, who has been Fox's president of entertainment for the past three years, is leaving. He will be succeeded by Michael Thorn, a senior development executive at Twentieth Century Fox Television, the sister production company that makes shows for Fox and other networks.

Mr. Madden is in negotiations to join AMC Networks Inc. as head of programming for its AMC and SundanceTV networks as well as play a role in the operations of AMC Studios, which produces shows for its networks, a person familiar with the matter said.

The shift at Fox comes just weeks before the 2017-18 television season starts. That means Mr. Thorn will not have an opportunity to make significant changes to the network's programming until next year. Shows for the upcoming season have already been selected and now networks are in the early stages of developing projects for next season.

As executive vice president of development at Twentieth Century Fox Television, Mr. Thorn played a key role in the development of the successful drama "This Is Us" for NBC and "Speechless" for ABC. He also has worked on Fox's hit drama "Empire."

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As was the case with Mr. Madden, Mr. Thorn will report to Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who share the title of chairman and chief executive of the Fox Television Group. Ms. Walden and Mr. Newman ultimately make the programming decisions for the network as well as for Twentieth Century Fox Television.

Although Fox Broadcasting is coming off a season in which it was up 2% in total viewers and flat in the key 18- to 49-year-old demographic that advertisers covet, that was primarily because of the big audiences it drew for coverage of the Super Bowl and the World Series. Without sports, Fox was down almost 20% in total viewers and adults aged 18 to 49.

The problems at Fox have been of concern to parent company 21st Century Fox, with Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch saying last May that the network's performance has been "frustrating for us all."

21st Century Fox and The Wall Street Journal parent News Corp share common ownership.

Shows that Fox had high hopes for that flopped over the past few years include "Scream Queens," a horror drama from producer Ryan Murphy, "Pitch," about a female pitcher in the Major Leagues and "Shots Fired," an ambitious mini-series about police violence and racial tensions in a southern town.

The network is also still reeling from the loss of "American Idol," the musical talent show that delivered big ratings for many years. Fox canceled "American Idol" after the 2016-17 because the production costs had risen beyond the point where the show was financially viable, said Fox Television Group Chairman and Chief Executive Dana Walden at the time. Walt Disney Co.'s ABC is bringing the show back this season.

"When 'American Idol' went away they were never able to replace it with something that had the same impact on the schedule," said Bill Carroll, a television industry consultant.

Fox Broadcasting is launching six new series this season, including a new drama from Mr. Murphy and a science-fiction show from "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane.

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 31, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)