FX Networks CEO Peter Liguori was named Entertainment President of Fox Broadcasting Co. late Thursday, taking the post as the clock ticks down on May 19, the day when he’ll announce the network's slate of shows for next season.
Liguori has more than two dozen pilots on the way, which were ordered by outgoing Entertainment President Gail Berman. He’ll review them over the next month with the development execs who helped Berman pick which shows would be made into pilots. “I respect that team a lot and what Gail has put in place,” Liguori said in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable. “We'll make a decision together.”
He also said it'll be a while before he considers making any strategic changes at the network. “I gotta spend a lot more time listening to the good team over there before I start talking on that front,” he said.
Liguori, 44, is best known for developing The Shield, Nip Tuck and Rescue Me, three distinctive series that have won critical acclaim, put FX on the map, and influenced broadcast networks to develop edgier fare.
“Peter has done an extraordinary job with FX,” News Corp. President Peter Chernin said in a statement announcing Liguori’s appointment. “He took what was largely a blank slate and turned it into arguably the hottest network in cable.” His challenge at Fox will be to wean the network off its dependence on American Idol. Fox’s ratings were in fourth place among 18 to 49s this season, until Idol returned in January. Liguori needs to develop shows that can pull in high ratings, with or without a lead in from Idol.
Liguori's successor at FX hasn’t been named, but sources inside Fox say that the leading candidate is John Landgraf, the cable network’s top development executive. After he took control of FX Networks in 1998, Liguori pushed original programming development in a bid to distinguish FX from the hundreds of other choices that viewers can make when they pick up their remote controls.
The approach worked. FX’s subscriber base has grown from 39 million homes to more than 84 million over the past five years. His hiring may be a sign that the network will focus on developing quality programming and avoid reality fare that hasn’t performed well for Fox over the past year. Liguori leaves FX with a full slate of new shows scheduled to debut over the next year. They include Steven Bochco’s Over There, the first series about the War in Iraq and 30 Days, a documentary series from Morgan Spurlock, the creator of Super Size Me. FX has also ordered two comedies, Starved and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, along with Thief, a drama starring Emmy winner Andre Braugher.