New Fox has its new network leader, and it’s a bit of a surprise: Charlie Collier, who most recently served as president and general manager of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios, is switching gears to take over the Fox Broadcasting network.
The appointment of Collier as Fox’s entertainment chief executive officer surprised the industry — even some internal Fox staffers, who had expected to see Gary Newman oversee the network’s transition into a standalone entity once 21st Century Fox’s merger with The Walt Disney Company was complete. Newman has been atop the Fox network as Fox TV Group chairman with Dana Walden since 2014, and has run 20th Century Fox TV with Walden since 1999. The exec had been a part of 21st Century Fox and its predecessor News Corp. for more than two decades, but he’ll now depart by the end of the year when the merger is completed.
Even before Friday’s announcement, Newman’s nearly 20-year partnership with Walden was set to finish by the end of December, as Walden has been named chairman of Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment. Newman had been in talks to stick around at New Fox and guide the network’s transition as staffers adjusted to being a part of a smaller company without a studio sibling.
But according to insiders, Newman was interested in only continuing at the network for a limited amount of time, before also exiting Fox and potentially looking for other opportunities in new media. That may have led to the decision by New Fox leaders to start looking for a permanent network chief — and, with Collier available, they pounced.
Lachlan Murdoch, who will serve as Chairman and CEO of the new corporate company calling itself “Fox,” called Collier “a singular talent, combining creative success with operational expertise to lead the AMC Network with some of television’s most memorable programming. Charlie’s skills and experience will help Fox continue to transform the broadcast television business.”
As CEO of entertainment, Collier will “oversee the Fox Broadcasting Network and lead the Company’s entertainment programming strategy across live, scripted and non-scripted content.”
The exec, who is currently based on the East Coast, will start to transition into his new job on Nov. 1.
Although Collier’s appointment is a bit of a surprise, it gives Fox a fresh pair of eyes to strategize its new space in the entertainment ecosystem. Fox is already bulking up with more live event programming in primetime, including Thursday Night Football and (starting next year) WWE Smackdown wrestling. The network is also expected to rely on more programming from unaligned studios such as Warner Bros. TV, Sony Pictures TV, and Lionsgate, as its 20th Century Fox TV sister becomes a part of Disney.
Collier’s background is mostly in cable, and in particular smaller, scrappier networks like AMC, SundanceTV, Oxygen and A&E Networks. That experience — including how to program, promote, and sell with a smaller infrastructure — could serve him and Fox well as the network undergoes its own change. Like Newman, Collier also brings more of a business background to the job, which makes a good fit with the network’s existing programming team. Execs sticking around at the new Fox network post-transition include entertainment president Michael Thorn, alternative entertainment president Rob Wade, and chief marketing officer Shannon Ryan.
The timing of the transition also comes as Fox celebrates strong early fall ratings: Over the first two weeks in Live+7 ratings, Fox is up 24 percent vs. last season — thanks to series such as “9-1-1,” “Empire,” and “Last Man Standing.”
“I can’t imagine a more exciting next step than this new role at Fox, which combines the power and reach of a broadcast division, some of the best live assets on the planet from which to build entertainment audiences and fan engagement, and a proven leadership team with a ‘make new rules’ start-up mentality,” Collier said in a statement.
At AMC, Collier helped oversee the network’s transformation into a high-end basic cable destination with critically acclaimed fare like “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” and “The Walking Dead.”
Collier’s departure comes as “Walking Dead,” the biggest scripted series in cable history, faces ratings erosion — with its biggest days likely behind it. Collier isn’t expected to be replaced immediately, as AMC Networks continues to be operated by longtime CEO Josh Sapan and COO Ed Carroll.
“Charlie Collier is a stellar executive and leader,” Carroll said. This is a great opportunity for him and we know he will make an enormous contribution to this new venture. We will miss him and are so thankful for his many achievements here over the past decade, helping to build AMC into a powerful brand and force in original programming, and to build AMC Studios into a robust entity producing outstanding content across our portfolio of national networks. We wish him great success.”
Coincidentally, Collier recruited his AMC/SundanceTV/AMC Studios programming president, David Madden, from Fox, where he was previously entertainment president.
“I’m proud of my last decade-plus at AMC Networks as the combination of a remarkable team and world-class talent led a transformation of AMCN into both a thriving global entertainment company and a premier original programmer,” Collier said.