Mike Darnell, Fox's longtime president of alternative
entertainment, is leaving the network when his contract is up at the end of
June, the network announced on Friday.
"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," said Darnell in a statement.
"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."
Darnell has been with Fox for 18 years, first joining in
1994 as director of specials. He oversaw the launch of current hits like American
Idol, The X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance and Hell's Kitchen,
as well envelope-pushing fare like Joe Millionaire, The Swan and Temptation
"Mike took risks at a critical time and was a pioneering
force in shaping the reality programming genre that exists today," said Rupert
Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp. "He's a smart and fearless
executive who will be missed."
Darnell leaves Fox as its two reality tentpoles,
Idol and X Factor,
are in the now-annual process of overhauling their judging panels for next
season. The network this week confirmed the
addition of Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio to the third season of X
Factor and a report earlier Friday said Jennifer
Hudson was on board to join Idol next year on a completely new
panel. Both series suffered ratings losses this season (Idol down 25%
and Factor down 19%), contributing to Fox losing its 18-49 ratings crown
for the first time in nine seasons.
A search will begin immediately for his successor.