Beverly Hills, Calif. — On the heels of acquiring Bento Box Entertainment, Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier is bullish on Fox’s new ability to operate as an independent among growing entertainment monoliths such as Disney, WarnerMedia and Comcast NBCUniversal.
“We are remaking our business as an independent, which as you know is a rare commodity these days,” Collier said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Wednesday. “That allows us to question every assumption about what it means to be an entertainment company. We get to determine if, for us, bigger is better. We are poised to build a company of a different size that will win in a very different way. The Fox evolution is well under way.”
At the moment, what that looks like is three nights of live sports, which includes the NFL, WWE, Major League Baseball and college football; the continuation of Animation Domination on Sunday nights with such shows as The Simpsons and Bob’s Burgers, and three nights -- Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday -- of entertainment programming.
“We are leaning into what makes Fox different structurally," said Collier. "We can now come to market in ways our competitors simply can’t. That’s a distinction we know is going to pay off.”
Last season, Fox’s number-one new show was Korean import The Masked Singer, so Fox is bringing it back in a big way this season, giving it a fall run and then giving it the prime post-Super Bowl slot for its third iteration this winter.
Collier anticipated reporters’ questions, which were asked later anyway, about the possibility of running the show into the ground: This year, even with the two installments, “Fox will air 30 hours of Masked Singer,” he said, “while [NBC’s] The Voice and [ABC’s] Bachelor franchise each will have aired about 75 hours.”
Besides the Super Bowl, Fox has several live programming events on its slate this year, including the Emmys in September.
Taking a cue from the Oscars, this year’s Emmys will not have a host, Collier confirmed. The show instead will focus on production numbers and other “surprises,” he said.
"It's our job to assess how to elevate the program … and what's interesting about this year is how many amazing shows we're saying goodbye to: Game of Thrones, Empire, Veep, Big Bang Theory — this is new to me, I've never worked on the Emmys before. You have to look at tradeoffs, if you have host and opening number that's 15 minutes you don't have to celebrate the shows," Collier said, who was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 2018. "Our production team has had to balance those tradeoffs. I think it will give us more time to honor those shows."
The 71st Emmys will mark the first time since 2003, when it also aired on Fox, that the show will go without a host, although ratings for this year’s host-less Oscars went up.
Collier also confirmed that Jussie Smollett, who earlier this year alleged that he had been the victim of a hate crime, will not return to Empire, which is entering its sixth and final season. Earlier, Collier had said that the network was looking at options around him, but Empire creator Lee Daniels said later that he would not be returning to the series and Collier backed that up.
While Empire is ending, Collier said Fox is open to the idea of spin-offs. “We’re in the Lee Daniels business. We’re in the Danny Strong business. If there’s more story to tell, we want to hear it. We’re going to play offense on Empire.”
Fox also announced that Amy Carney, who most recently was president of advertiser sales at Sony Pictures Television, is joining Fox Entertainment as chief operating officer, and that it had set its first overall deal with Jeff Davis, the creator of CBS’ Criminal Minds and MTV’s Teen Wolf.
“We're vying with the best in the business for writers and creative partners and we're committed to making sure they know what Fox is building and what kind of home it will be," Collier said. "We at Fox Entertainment believe in creating and sharing with talent the holy grail of television: the back end. Our structure allows creators access to a broadcast network with fewer layers. Rather than lock down talent, Fox will take the right projects to other platforms when it makes sense."
Collier also addressed the fact that Fox is no longer officially part owner of one of the major streaming platforms now that Disney has bought out its stake in Hulu.
“Our Hulu relationship is thriving and doing well,” he said. “We have no plans to abandon the Fox Now app, which we lean into and does well, but is not looking to compete with Hulu.”