The move to Telepictures comes 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.
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.
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.
TCA: Kevin Reilly Stands Up For Broadcast Vs. Cable, Defends New Comedy ‘Dads’, Reflects On Mike Darnell’s Departure
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.”
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.”
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 …
EXCLUSIVE: 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.”
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.”
‘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.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
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.
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 …
Fox’s Kevin Reilly And Mike Darnell On ‘American Idol’ & ‘Fringe’ Moves; No Back Orders For ‘Running Wilde’ & ‘Good Guys’
“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 …
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
Fox’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. …