Kevin Reilly is gone.
Dana Walden and Gary Newman won't be taking over and Chairmen and CEOs for the newly formed FOX Television Group until the end of the month.
That means that on Sunday (July 20) morning, our Television Critics Association press tour Fox Executive Session is with Fox Network Group CEO and Chairman Peter Rice, who hasn't met with us for several years and even when he did meet with us, it was always clear that he was far enough above the network's day-to-day that our questions weren't part of his thought process.
At least he'll be able to talk about the FOX executive restructuring, which will make for a buzz-y panel, I'm sure.
Click though and follow along…
10:02 a.m. We had French Toast sticks for breakfast.
10:02 a.m. Peter Rice is wearing blue jeans. “It's good to see you all again. It's been a while since I've had the fun of doing this with you,” he says, Britishly. “Dana and Gary are obviously not here, which is why you're stuck with me. “This is a new structure for us. It's been over a decade since we were structured this way,” he says, calling FOX formerly “the old man out” in terms of network/studio aligning. “I'm personally excited to be working with them,” he says of Walden and Newman, calling them “great colleagues.” He repeats that the network and studios are still separate and the studio will keep selling to other networks and the network will keep buying from other studios. “We are ultimately in the talent business,” Rice says.
10:05 a.m. The first question is about “Mullany.” Why did FOX take it when it wasn't quite ready yet? He thought the original “Mullany” pilot had some elements that he liked. They reshot most of the pilot and they've shot six episodes already. He praises the advantages of doing a multi-cam sitcom with a proven comedic voice. “I think we captured that in the first six and now we've ordered an additional 10,” he says. The costs are lower than with a single-cam.
10:07 a.m. “We want to have the biggest hits we possibly can. We live in a world in which hits are disproportionately important,” Rice says. He says, though, that what counts as a “hit” has changed. He talks about “New Girl” and “Brooklyn” and their overall viewing bump when you move beyond live. He says that they can measure social and cultural impact and that those are bigger than live ratings sometimes. “We're looking for things that capture people's imaginations, that resonate, that have a big audience,” he says, adding that he hopes audiences are better measured. Rice adds that the network needs to communicate numbers and whatnot to us.
10:10 a.m. Is pilot season still dead at FOX? “Kevin had a big cemetery stone with 'Pilot season.' I think that was a little bit misinterpreted,” Rice says. He agrees that having a singular and rigid development process isn't good for the creative product. The network will continue to try to be flexible and elastic. “We will make pilots. Sometimes we'll go straight to series. We will make pilots in February, but sometimes we'll make them in September,” he says.
10:12 a.m. “I loved this year's season of '24.' I thought it was fantastic,” Rice says. They haven't had conversations, but “I'm sure that we will in the future. It's a wonderful franchise.” He thinks the show has more stories to tell, but they need to have conversations. “'Bones,' I hope that this year is not the last year,” he says. He acknowledges that David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel are in their last contract years, but “I'd hope that that would come back.”
10:13 a.m. A “Cabot College” question. “It's still in development at FOX,” he insists. Walden and Newman will have conversations with creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock after they move into their new gigs. “I think it would be wrong of me to pre-judge those conversations,” he concludes.
10:14 a.m. FOX and advertisers are in ongoing conversations about what advertisers pay for, viewership-wise. “All television is ultimately viewed live. Everybody is alive when they're watching the show,” Rice says, cryptically. He talks about dynamic ad insertion and other changes. He says that the Nielsen sample was more accurate when everything was being viewed live and there were fewer choices. “I think the advantages fall to both the advertisers and to us in the creative community and that we'll get there,” Rice says. He notes that they've moved from a C3 to a C7 on half of their upfront content, apparently.
10:17 a.m. How was FOX at a disadvantage under the old structure of the network/studio? “I think the old structure had a clear advantage for the studio in that it was a big, independent studio that was able to sell to everybody and therefore did that extremely successfully,” he says. The network, however, was at a disadvantage. FOX had to be reactive, as a buyer and the “funnel became narrower.” “We were were seeing less and having to compete with more networks,” Rice says. He praises Newman and Walden and their fantastic studio. This will let FOX and 20th speak to creatives with a single voice. If something isn't right for FOX, it can go to other homes, but now they can coordinate better.
10:20 a.m. “It's still a very strong for us and it's a show that we love,” Rice says of “American Idol.” “I think it is aging gracefully,” Rice insists. He says that the network felt good about the production this year and also with the set of judges. “We live in a very competitive world for singing competition shows now,” Rice says. “We haven't found, in the last two years, a group of kids who have captured the imagination of the public,” he admits. Going into this year, they've had conversations about how to focus on talent.
10:22 a.m. Are they sticking with the behind-the-scenes “Idol” team? Yes. They liked the new stages and the energy of the show. He repeats, again, that they need to find a more imagination-grabbing group of kids.
10:23 a.m. Rice doesn't know every detail about how ABC Studios' “Red Band Society” came to FOX. “We're thrilled it's with us,” he says. “It is ambitious and unique. It is inspirational, aspirational,” he says.
10:24 a.m. “HIEROGLYPH” question! “It was a really ambitious project,” he says. Rice says that it was an expensive first episode and they hoped to amortize the cost. “We decided it didn't really live up for the ambitions we had for it,” he says. He says that the pilot was a big swing and it didn't land. “Rather than keep plodding through the episodes in a way and hoping to fix it on the fly, we decided to stop,” Rice laments.
10:26 a.m. FOX will continue to rotate dramas on Mondays. He admits that the network's shows with serialized elements don't repeat especially well. “I think it has been working for us,” he says.
10:27 a.m. What is the future of “So You Think You Can Dance”? “I love the quality of those kids. They work so hard and for so long to be able to dance at that level,” Rice says. “It's a show that we love,” he says. But they'll get to the end of the year and see where it stands. He expects, but not officially, it will be back.
10:28 a.m. “I think it's pretty clear: If it's anecdotal evidence that we give you, you should trust it. If it comes from anyone else…” Rice cracks regarding the difference between Nielsen and anecdotal evidence about viewership/impact. Again, Rice talks about the importance of cultural impact. He appreciates how much TV we watch. He says that FOX is still struggling with how to get non-live ratings information itself and then struggling with how to communicate that to us. He references VoD numbers. They're getting much more precise numbers now, but they're getting it slowly. He praises TV for being a reflection of society. “There is a more precise measurement coming at some point,” he says.
10:32 a.m. Are there going to be any more decisions to undo things that were done previously? He tells us that Walden and Newman will be running the network and they'll have to make choices. Why did he make choices to cut “Glee” and “Hieroglyph”? “I think 'Glee' is one of the great shows in television history,” Rice says. “It burned so hot and so fast,” he says. They want the show to go out in a way that celebrates “Glee.” The decision to cut to 13 episodes had already been made in May.
10:34 a.m. Have there been conversations about Gordon Ramsay announcing that he was done with “Kitchen Nightmares” before FOX could announce? They're looking forward to continuing with his current shows and making new Ramsay shows in the future. Rice says they knew Ramsay's “Kitchen Nightmares” plan before he blogged about it.
That's all, folks…