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Telepictures Taps Donna Redier Linsk As EVP Business Operations & Programming

By | Monday March 31, 2014 @ 11:00am PDT

The move to Telepictures comesDonnaradierlinsk1 about eight months after Donna Redier Linsk exited FremantleMedia North America as COO and reunites her with Mike Darnell, President, Warner Bros. Unscripted and Alternative Television, to whom she will directly report. The two previously worked together at Fox when Darnell oversaw reality. In the newly created position of EVP Business Operations & Programming, Radier Linsk will serve as Telepictures’ top business executive, responsible for all finance, business and legal affairs, production, operations, administration and current programming matters related to the company’s original television series and digital content. She will also manage Telepictures’ business and operational staff. “I feel incredibly lucky that Donna has decided to join the Telepictures team. She has been a trusted advisor to me for many years, and I could not be more excited to have her here,” Darnell said in a statement. Read More »

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Fox Hires Simon Andreae To Replace Mike Darnell As Reality TV Chief

By | Tuesday October 22, 2013 @ 9:59am PDT

Simon Andreae, the former Channel 4 exec in the UK and former Discovery Channel exec in Los Angeles, is a guy best known for programs that mulled why the RMS Titanic sank and whether God created the universe, but also the first televised human autopsy, first televised exorcism and, of course, the series Naked And Afraid. He is replacing the Fox exec crowned Point Man For Perversity by The New York Times, Mike Darnell.

Related: Mike Darnell Moving To Warner Bros TV

In August, Andreae announced that after an eight-year stint in the U.S., he’d launched Scarlet Media and would be returning to the UK with a contract with Sony Pictures TV, reporting to SPT exec Andrea Wong, who used to head reality TV at ABC. Based in London, Andreae would develop factual and factual entertainment formats and specials for British TV and international markets.

While for public consumption Andreae is replacing Darnell, the job is smaller than it was under Darnell — and pays less, which eliminated a few of the candidates who’d been in talks, sources report. Andreae will oversee development; Fox veteran David Hill will hang on to the network’s current reality franchises American Idol and The X Factor. That’s maybe just as well for Andreae given that the two singing competitions had become something of a high-class headache for Darnell, what with Idol’s numbers still good but tumbling, and X Factor‘s promised gimongus crowd continuing to not show up for a third season despite yet another judge-panel makeover. Read More »

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TCA: Kevin Reilly Stands Up For Broadcast Vs. Cable, Defends New Comedy ‘Dads’, Reflects On Mike Darnell’s Departure

By | Thursday August 1, 2013 @ 2:09pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Fox‘s entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly opened the network’s executive session with a slide presentation that mixed a passionate defense of the broadcast business and frustration with how success has been portrayed on cable vs. broadcast. He started off with the “good news”, that “TV consumption is up” before talking about the increasing portion of the audience who watch shows on demand and online, sometimes up to a third of a show’s viewership, that remains uncounted for. Ditto for the increasing share of viewers who watch an episode of a show beyond the three days after the premiere that the advertisers pay for. There is even a lot of “activity outside the 30-day window,” Reilly said. “We need to find a way to monetize the rest of the window.”

Related: TCA: Cory Monteith Tribute Will Address Drug Addiction, Show Eyes End

Reilly also vented about the lower standards used to proclaim a cable series a hit vs. those on broadcast, noting that with its 2.2 18-49 rating, freshman The Mindy Project has been qualified as a modest or middling performer while it ranks higher than most of the heavily buzzed about cable series. “Of the 1,050 original series on cable last season, only four would’ve made it into the top 50 shows on television,” he said. Continuing a theme started by NBC’s  topper Bob Greenblatt who called broadcast “the bastard child of television,” a statement that was shot down by CBS’ Les Moonves, Reilly said, “I don’t think we are the bastard or step child. I don’t think the broadcast system is broken or antiquated.” Reilly primarily took on cable because of Netflix’s refusal to report viewership, or as Reilly put it “the unreported mystery audience of Netflix.” He displayed his trademark candor by noting that “I respect most of my competitors, most of them.”

Related: TCA: Urban To Return To ‘Idol’, Lopez In Talks, Jackson “Will Be Back In Some Capacity”

Read More »

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Fox Reality TV Guru Mike Darnell Moving To Warner Bros. TV

By | Thursday July 18, 2013 @ 12:20pm PDT

Fox network’s reality-TV bad boy Mike Darnell is moving to Warner Bros TV, to create new content and oversee the studio’s interests in NBC’s singing competition hit where The Voice,  ABC’s The Bachelor and Bachelorette, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York, TMZ , and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, among other franchises. As president of Warner Bros. Unscripted and Alternative Television, which he assumes on Aug. 12, Mike will oversee first-run syndicated series produced by Telepictures, and primetime TV programing produced by Warner Horizon Unscripted TV, and will serve as the studio’s creative point person in its relationship with Shed Media U.S.

Last May, it was announced that, after 18 years, the guy who brought us Alien Autopsy, the Rick Rockwell/Darva Conger insta-marriage train wreck Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, and the slice-and-dice-a-chick series The Swan, as well as Idol, had stepped down as president of “alternative entertainment” at the Fox broadcast network. Darnell announced his departure as the network is looking to shore up its aged singing competition Idol, and its Idol – Lite singing show, The X Factor. Shoring up sliding shows is not what Mike best enjoys doing. In addition to overseeing the company’s interest in the Mark Burnett exec-produced The Voice, the Mike-Fleiss exec produced Bachelor franchise; Extra, Lisa Kudrow’s Who Do You Think You Are?, The Real Housewives of New York City, Hollywood Exes, and other programs, Mike will come … Read More »

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Ryan Seacrest On Mike Darnell’s Fox Departure

By | Friday May 24, 2013 @ 4:15pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Ryan Seacrest was a local Los Angeles DJ when he was picked by Fox’s head of alternative programming Mike Darnell as co-host and then sole host of American Idol. Seacrest became a TV star and has gone on to expand into producing and build a mini reality empire. “Mike Darnell was a pioneer in reality television,” Seacrest said today about Darnell’s decision to depart Fox. “He brilliantly paved the way for all of us, creating a powerful entertainment genre that audiences can’t get enough of. I’ve had the privilege of working with him for more than a decade, and I’ve learned so much from him. He has been an inspiration for imparting his creative genius constantly, a mentor as I launched my production company, as well as a dear friend. I’m excited to work with him as he blazes a new path in his incredible career.” Seacrest has one more year on his current blockbuster Idol contract and, with Darnell gone and the current judges and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe also likely out, he may be the only key auspice returning next season, providing continuity.

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Mike Darnell On His Decision To Leave Fox & His Future

By | Friday May 24, 2013 @ 2:22pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Mike Darnell Leaves FoxShortly after we broke the news of Fox President of Alternative Programming Mike Darnell‘s decision to depart the network after 18 years, I’ve got to speak to Darnell about the bombshell news. “I  remember considering leaving the last time,” he said. “This happens every time my contract is up. It’s always an excruciating decision.” This time he couldn’t resist the temptation of other opportunities. “I love it here, but there are all these other things out there.” What are the things he’s most attracted to? “I will take a little time to feel my way through, but it will be something that is creative and exciting that has a sense of entrepreneurship,” Darnell said, indicating that a career as a producer might be in the cards. He has already signed with Mark Itkin, the co-head of TV at WME.

Fox President Of Alternative Programming Mike Darnell To Depart

As for the timing of his decision to leave Fox and likely the executive ranks, “my dream was to work on a big show that will go down in the history books,” he said. “I achieved that with American Idol, which may be the biggest show that ever was.” But Idol, as well as newbie The X Factor, had been taking up a lot of Darnell’s time over the last few seasons with a series of shakeups and attempts to keep IdolRead More »

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Fox Unscripted TV Czar Mike Darnell To Exit

By | Friday May 24, 2013 @ 1:32pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Mike Darnell Leaves FoxEXCLUSIVE: The reality TV landscape will never be the same. After 18 years at Fox, the dean of unscripted TV executives, Fox’s President of Alternative Programming Mike Darnell, is stepping down. He will stay on through the end of June, when his current contract is up, and help with the transition. Darnell was offered a new long-term deal at the network but, after long deliberation, decided it was time to move on. Darnell faced similar agonizing soul-searching several years ago when he was offered rich producing deals elsewhere but ultimately opted to stay at Fox, where he’s had free rein on the unscripted side. This time around, he decided to leave the network, which he helped build first with noise-making reality specials like World’s Scariest Police Chases and When Animals Attack! and then with such tentpole series as American Idol and Family Guy. The colorful, unconventional, cowboy hat-wearing Darnell never shied away from controversy, relishing in the blockbuster attention projects like the Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? special and hit series Joe Millionaire brought on. In a  testament to Darnell’s importance to Fox and parent News Corp, company chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch weighed in on his departure. “Mike took risks at a critical time and was a pioneering force in shaping the reality programming genre that exists today,” Murdoch said. “He’s a smart and fearless executive who will be missed.”

Related: Mike Darnell On His Decision To Leave Fox & His Future

Darnell is expected to take some time off before making his next move, which I hear likely will be in the producing/entrepreneurial arena. “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. “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,” the exec said in a statement Friday.

Related: Anyone Care Who Won ‘American Idol’?

Fox is expected to begin the search for Darnell’s successor, who will navigate veteran American Idol and The X Factor through their upcoming overhauls, soon as Idol is looking to rebound from all-time low ratings. “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 Rice, Chairman of Fox Networks Group. “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.”

Related: Jennifer Hudson In Talks For ‘American Idol’ Judge Gig
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Fox’s Mike Darnell Talks ‘American Idol’ Premiere Ratings, Teases “Susan Boyle Moment”, Mariah-Nicki Feud Storyline

By | Thursday January 17, 2013 @ 12:23pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Fox‘s reality chief Mike Darnell, well known for his premiere anxiety, slept only an hour last night, nervously awaiting the ratings for the Season 12 debut of American Idol  with new judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. When they came in this morning, Idol posted a 6.0/16 among Adults 18-49 and 17.9 million viewers, down 19% from last year’s opener but still higher-rated in the demo than ABC, NBC and CBS combined. “I’m relieved this morning,” Darnell said. “We knew the show would be down but god bless it did a very good number; it was much bigger than The Voice’s premiere.” He attributed the decline, despite the infusion of new judges, to having two singing competition series both in the fall (The Voice, X Factor) and the spring (The Voice, American Idol), in addition to America’s Got Talent in the summer. As a result, “they are all eroding,” Darnell said.

He is encouraged by early reaction and optimistic about Idol’s ratings performance this season. “There is so much talk and buzz about the new judging panel that I’m bullish that we will cut the (ratings) deficit,” Darnell said. He teased the much talked-about feud storyline between diva judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, which he said starts at the Chicago auditions and culminates in Charlotte. He also touted the talent, highlighting a heavily stuttering contestant on tonight’s episode who … Read More »

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UPDATE: Paula Abdul, Fox And Simon Cowell React To ‘X Factor’ Shakeup

By | Tuesday January 31, 2012 @ 11:42am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Paula Abdul Won’t Return To ‘The X Factor’ In Season 2
Scherzinger & Jones Both Out Of ‘The X Factor’

UPDATED, 11:51 AM: Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Fox all released separate statements this morning about yesterday’s big shakeup on the network’s singing competition show The X Factor. The housecleaning after a lackluster first season included the departures of Abdul, fellow judge Nicole Sherzinger and host Steve Jones, and none of them left on their own accord. Here’s the statement from Cowell, who pulled the trigger on the changes, including on close friend Abdul, whom he shared the judges table with for years on American Idol:

“I want to say a massive thank you to Paula, Nicole and Steve for being part of The X Factor last year.  We had a lot of fun making the show together and importantly, we found some real talent and stars. You do develop friendships with the people you work with and Paula, in particular, is a very close friend and I expect to be working with her on another project in the near future. I’m sure all three are going to have massive success in what they do next , but now is the time to thank them all for everything they did last year.”

Like Cowell, Fox alternative president Mike Darnell also stressed in his … Read More »

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Fox’s Mike Darnell “Relieved” By ‘X Factor’ Ratings, Has “No Regrets” Over Judge Swap

By | Thursday September 22, 2011 @ 11:47am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

‘X Factor’ Premiere Falls Short
It’s been an exhausting week for Fox’s reality chief Mike Darnell, who hasn’t slept much since the end of last week as he also oversaw the network’s Emmy telecast on Sunday. And he barely got some shut-eye last night, awaiting the ratings for the premiere of Simon Cowell’s The X Factor. They came in below most expectations: a 4.2 rating/12 share in adults 18-49 and 12.1 million viewers in the fast nationals, falling short of the January season premiere of American Idol (9.7/26, 21.6 million viewers in the fast nationals) as well as the April debut of NBC’s The Voice (5.1/13, 11.8 million) in the demo. (In the finals, X Factor is expected to go up 2 tenths to a 4.4 rating, though the other 2 shows also were adjusted up in the finals). Cowell had been talking about his goals of beating Idol in the ratings and averaging some 20 million viewers for The X Factor. Darnell dismisses that as “Simon’s showmanship, something you’ve got to love him for.” But “we lived with the reality that there is an enormous interest in every show during premiere week, and honestly, we’re just relieved this morning. Other than crazy expectations, this is a very good premiere.”

Darnell points to the fact that fall has been traditionally tough for Fox and that The X Factor delivered Fox’s best premiere Wednesday ratings in 18 years and was the network’s most-watched fall debut in five years. “If it stays close to a 4 (rating in 18-40) for the 40 hours it’s on the air, that would be amazing for us,” he said. He declined to address the higher premiere number for NBC’s upstart The Voice, but I hear Fox’s explanation is that, because of Idol, there is a built-in appetite for singing competitions in midseason that might have helped The Voice. Read More »

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It’s Official: Jennifer Lopez Signs Deal To Return To ‘American Idol’

By | Wednesday August 17, 2011 @ 9:38am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

After lengthy negotiations, Fox today officially announced what everyone already knew by now: that Jennifer Lopez will return as a judge on American Idol next season alongside Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler. The upcoming 11th season of Idol, hosted once again by Ryan Seacrest, will premiere on Sunday, Jan. 22, following the NFC Championship Game. “Having both Jennifer and Steven return to Idol in 2012 alongside Randy is such a positive reflection on what was a wonderful and hugely successful season last year,” said series creator/executive producer Simon Fuller. Added Fox’s president of alternative programming Mike Darnell: “From the very first day of auditions, we knew we had something special in our new judges panel, and we’re so happy that America felt that way too. Together with Ryan — who is fantastic day in and day out — they built an incredible connection with both the contestants and our viewers, and I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome them all back to Idol for another season.” Idol, which received 10 Emmy nominations this year, starts the audition process for next season Aug. 26 in Houston.

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TCA: Simon Cowell In Talks With Mariah Carey For ‘X Factor’ Role, Addresses Cheryl Cole Debacle

Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.

TCA: Fox Sets Date For ‘X-Factor’ Finale

UPDATED: The incomparable Simon Cowell met the TCA press from afar — via satellite from an undisclosed location that looked suspiciously like a luxury yacht at sea — to promote his latest Fox singing competition to hit America, The X Factor, which arrives needing little plugging. Early on, he confirmed that he’s in talks with Mariah Carey for a mentor-type role on the series that will air Tuesday and Wednesday nights each week beginning Sept. 21. “There are certain sections of the show that I’m hoping Mariah will get involved in,” he said. “She’s been enthusiastic (to be a part of the show) from day one. But then she selfishly got pregnant, which is why she didn’t end up as a judge.”

Cowell also was asked early on in the session to address the Cheryl Cole fiasco, wherein the popular judge on the British X Factor was brought to the U.S. version, only to get bounced after a single taping. “A few of us made the decision while we were filming the show that we felt Cheryl was going to be more comfortable doing the UK show than the American show. Unfortunately, when the story went public, negotiations fell apart. But she was offered the chance to come back to America. But for certain reasons, she decided not to. I guess that’s what happens when you make reality TV. Real things happen. It doesn’t always go your way.” Cowell dismissed speculation that any friction between Cole and fellow judge Paula Abdul may have played a role in Cole’s ouster. “If not getting along with Paula was a factor, I wouldn’t be on the show,” he said. Read More »

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Fox’s Mike Darnell: “Fiendish Munchkin”?

By | Thursday June 2, 2011 @ 4:57am PDT

The British press have their long knives out humiliating Fox’s Mike Darnell over the near-decision to replace their sweetheart Cheryl Cole as a judge on the U.S. version of The X Factor. Of course, it took Fox Broadcasting boss Peter Rice and Mike Darnell and the talent contest’s executive producer Simon Cowell to really screw up before it even goes on the air this fall. But don’t let facts get in the way of a good insult:

Daily Mail: “Axed by fiendish Rumpelstiltskin: The 5ft 2in snakeskin boot-wearing TV boss who shattered Cheryl Cole’s U.S. dream.”
– The Guardian: “Mike Darnell, former child star, now the cowboy-hatted, ringletted munchkin in charge of Fox’s apocalypse-beckoning reality schedule.”

These are all descriptions I need to add to my repertoire. My just calling out someone as a  ”putz” clearly doesn’t cut it anymore…

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Charlie Sheen Met With Fox Sports Topper

By | Monday March 21, 2011 @ 10:59am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Fox reps have confirmed a TMZ report that actor Charlie Sheen met on Thursday with several top Fox executives. I have the details. The sitdown, which happened on the Fox lot, was set up by Fox Sports for Sheen to speak with Fox Sports president David Hill. But then Hill invited Fox entertainment chairman Peter Rice and alternative president Mike Darnell. All three top execs were present at the meeting with Sheen. Word is that no show ideas were pitched from either side at what turned out to be an exploratory meeting. It is unclear whether Sheen would do anything specifically for Fox Sports, but Charlie is a big sports fan with a passion for baseball (he starred in the Major League movie franchise). Sheen also has become a major draw on Fox Sports Radio with his frequent appearances on the Dan Patrick Show, which is simulcasting on Fox Sports Net. The news comes amid unconfirmed tabloid chatter that CBS wants Sheen to return to Two and a Half Men following his recent dismissal from the hit show.

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Fox’s Kevin Reilly And Mike Darnell On ‘American Idol’ & ‘Fringe’ Moves; No Back Orders For ‘Running Wilde’ & ‘Good Guys’

Nellie Andreeva

Fox’ Midseason Schedule

“We have been looking at Thursday for a long time,” Fox’s reality chief Mike Darnell said. “It is a tough nut to crack, and if you want to crack it, you have to make a big move there.” Idol has been the biggest show on television for 8 years, so why make this move now? It was CBS’ surprising decision in May to take another reality juggernaut, Survivor, off Thursdays that set the Idol shift idea in motion, Darnell said. With Idol itself going through a major transition with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler and without Simon Cowell, Fox brass decided to wait and see how the show’s production was going and, happy with what they’d seen so far, they pulled the trigger on the scheduling change. “It felt like the right time to make the move,” Darnell said. “Now we can own Thursday.”

Seeing the door opening at 8 PM on Thursday with Survivor gone was a major but not the only factor for the Idol move, Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said. “At the same time, we’re looking at what’s going on on Tuesday where we are winning the night with Glee, which, after airing after the Super Bowl, will probably end the season as the highest-rated scripted series.” Glee was originally slated to … Read More »

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Mike Darnell Explains ‘Idol’ Format Changes

Nellie Andreeva

UPDATE: At a press conference following the brief Idol judge unveiling ceremony, Fox’s president of alternative programming Mike Darnell dismissed speculation that negotiations with new judge Jennifer Lopez took so long because of special demands by the singer/actress. “There were no diva demands,” he said. “These were easy, comfortable deals.” However, unlike the pact for new judge Steve Tyler, Lopez’s deal for Idol does include a first-look film and TV deal at Fox for her production company. However, later, a top Fox executive confirmed Nikki’s reporting that Team Lopez did indeed make big demands. “But they’re supposed to,” the exec chortled.

Idol producers shed some light on the the upcoming season, which feels like a reboot with the 2 new judges, plus new in-house mentor Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine, newly returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, and new music partner Universal. The producers went out of their way to stress that there will be no judge taking over the villain role played on the show by Simon Cowell for the first 9 seasons. “It’s not about role playing, it’s about [judges] playing themselves,” Lythgoe said. But later a Fox exec explained that Iovine, a music industry veteran, would fit the bill by giving the young singers a dose of brutal honesty when he advised them and assessed their performances in offstage sessions that will be shown during the broadcast. Iovine’s role, therefore, will be crucial to the show’s dynamic. When asked how Idol will deal with not having Cowell, Lythgoe responded: “You obviously haven’t met Jimmy.”

Sources told Nikki as far back as January that Idol was looking at the 56-year-old Iovine, the inspiration for Eminem’s song “Jimmy Crack Corn” (which also features 50 Cent). The deal was sealed when Idol’s 19 Entertainment entered into a multiyear agreement with Universal Music Group to have Interscope Geffen A&M market, promote, and distribute albums globally from American Idol’s finalists and winning contestants across a broad array of retail and new media platforms. Iovine has been chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M since 2001. He was born in Brooklyn-born and began as a recording engineer in the mid-1970s working with John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. He went on to produce albums for U2, Tom Petty Read More »

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Reality Chief Mike Darnell Re-Ups At Fox

Nellie Andreeva

Mike_DarnellFox’s reality guru Mike Darnell is closing in on a 20-year anniversary at the network. Darnell has inked a new three-year contract to continue as president of alternative programming. That will bring his tenure at Fox to a whooping 19 years. (He joined Fox in 1994). Darnell, who is now shepherding American Idol‘s transition to a post-Simon Cowell era, appears to have renewed his deal quietly several weeks ago, and the extension is keeping things status quo for the reality master. At his previous renegotiation with Fox in 2007, Darnell was upped to president, becoming the the first alternative department head to hold a president title. He was also formally given creative control over Fox’s unscripted development and authority to greenlight pilots, presentations and specials. At the time, he remained at Fox after fielding  offers from seven suitors, including NBC, Endemol USnd RDF USA, to join them as a producer.

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