Fox Hunt

Shapiro heads TV studio; Grant goes independent

When Angela Shapiro takes over as president of Fox Television Studios this week, the former president of ABC Family will be ahead of the game.

First, she inherits a studio about to reap hundreds of millions of dollars for its corporate parent in syndication revenues. Second, her most important immediate report—new Regency Television President Robin Schwartz—was her top programming lieutenant at ABC Family. And third, Fox is the perfect place to combine the buttoned-down corporate training and political savvy learned at Disney with her entrepreneurial and creative spirit.

Although Fox Entertainment Group hasn't confirmed Shapiro as heir apparent to outgoing David Grant, studio sources say she's ready to come on board.

The appointment is a soft landing for Shapiro, who left her ABC Family job in December after Disney realigned its cable networks, forcing her to report to then-ABC Cable Networks Group head Anne Sweeney. Rather than report to Sweeney, Shapiro quit.

Yet, in the 18 months that she helmed ABC Family, Shapiro failed to turn it around, a task that now falls to new president, Paul Lee. Before that, she was president of Buena Vista Productions, developing such syndicated programs as The Wayne Brady Show
and the syndicated version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. She also lobbied to give Kelly Ripa the job as Regis's co-host on Live With Regis & Kelly. And she ran ABC Daytime.

Grant is exiting the studio he founded in 1997 to pursue alternative and international production. "There is an opportunity to do it independently," he says. "It's one thing I love to do."

Insiders say News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch was frustrated that Fox TV Studios was successfully developing shows for non-News Corp.-owned cable networks. In addition, Grant didn't agree with several key News Corp. execs on how to run his operation.

Launching boutique production shop Regency Television, a joint venture of Fox TV Studios and New Regency Enterprises, was Grant's biggest success. He also brought on Gail Berman, then an executive producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she developed Malcolm in the Middle, which is poised to deliver between $4.5 million and $5 million per episode in cash license fees and ad sales.

After Berman was promoted to Fox's president of entertainment, Grant brought in Peter Aronson, who developed The Bernie Mac Show
and now executive-produces it. That show launches in syndication in 2006 and is reaping cash license fees of around $2 million per episode.

Besides Malcolm
and Bernie, Fox Television Studios also co-produces FX's The Shield
with Sony and produced original movies 44 Minutes
and Redemption
for the cable channel.

Regency has Method & Red
in production for Fox this summer and pilots Taste
and the untitled Jason Alexander project at CBS. At The WB, Regency has Shacking Up, starring Fran Drescher. Also at The WB, Fox TV Studios has The Robinsons: Lost in Space.