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Berman aims for stability

Gail Berman is now "In the Middle" of the rebuilding process at FOX Broadcasting Co.

Until last week the head of co-owned studio Regency Television, which produces the FOX hit Malcolm in the Middle, Berman is now the new president of entertainment at FOX, filling the void left three months ago when Doug Herzog resigned from the struggling network.

Berman becomes Fox's first female entertainment president. (Lucie Salhany earlier served as FOX Broadcasting chairwoman.) More significantly, perhaps, she is the fourth executive to hold the position in the last six years. Since Fox's 1986 launch, the network has had seven entertainment presidents.

Berman helped make Regency Television, which is a co-venture of FOX Television Studios and New Regency Productions, an almost overnight success. Sources say FOX had been trying to lure her even before Herzog split.

At one time, News Corp. executives reportedly wanted to make her Herzog's second in command, but Berman didn't bite. For the last several months, sources say, she continued pondering a break from the upstart studio that landed four series on three different network schedules this fall.

"This was a tough, emotional decision to make," says Berman, who also helped create The WB series Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel. "When you are making a big, life-changing move, you want to make sure everything is considered and all of the bases are covered. But I think it was time for me to move on."

As for fixing FOX, Berman says, "I can't really dwell on what has happened here in the past or this season for that matter. I'm looking forward, and I want to establish an environment of stability around here."

Berman is expected to bring with her a handful of executives, including FOX TV Studios Movies' top executive Marci Pool. Longtime NBC executive Preston Beckman, who just left the network after serving as executive vice president of programming and planning, is also expected to join Berman's team.

Those announcements, FOX executives say, will come over the next few weeks.

Berman also inherits a post with a new executive layer over it. Sandy Grushow, who was named chairman of FOX Television Entertainment Group last December, now oversees both Twentieth Century FOX Television and Fox's broadcast network.