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Hill To Judge Next Producer

 Hill will be one of three judges on the 10-episode competition show that gives a group of aspiring TV producers the chance to compete for a first-look deal with TV Guide Network, $100,000 in cash and a Hollywood production office. The series debuts July 18 at 8 p.m.

Applications were solicited via open calls in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, an online contest through Yahoo!-owned Jumpcut, and word of mouth in Hollywood. Ten chosen contestants, all with varying levels of TV-production experience, will share living space while they compete by pitching series ideas and facing weekly filming challenges. Each episode, judges will choose which would-be producer is evicted from the competition.

Hill brings both a bombastic demeanor and an extensive television pedigree to the role. He recently returned to News Corp. as chairman/CEO of Fox Sports, the company division he launched in 1994. Previously, he headed up entertainment for DirecTV before News Corp. swapped it to John Malone's Liberty Media. Hill also ran Fox Television Network in the late 1990s.

TV Guide Network President Ryan O'Hara is excited about securing Hill, citing his commitment to the medium and his unique style.

During O'Hara's current tenure running TV Guide and in his previous job heading up the TVG horseracing network—both of which fall under the News Corp. rubric—O'Hara would bring in fellow executives to speak instructively with groups of producers. Hill was always a popular, inspired choice in the exercises.

“They always say he is the most impactful speaker,” O'Hara says. “He bleeds television.”

But with Hill as judge on this competition show, O'Hara is not demanding the Australian executive try to channel the acerbic British wit of American Idol star critic Simon Cowell.

“We will let him be himself,” O'Hara says. “We are not guiding him or directing him.”

While Hill has made his mark as a producer and an executive in the U.S., he has an on-air pedigree as well. Years ago in Australia, he was both a reporter and news anchor and even hosted a morning program called Today in the mid 1970s.

Hill's hiring is not the only case of corporate synergy for the show. Matt Roush, TV Guide's well-respected senior critic, will serve as the other regular judge. Roush has long been a regular industry analyst on both broadcast and cable television reports. In addition, America's Next Producer will bring in a different celebrity third judge each week.

The network has also signed former syndicated–talk-show host Ananda Lewis to host the new series. Lewis' other on-air work includes stints at MTV, BET and syndicated newsmagazine The Insider.

The show will be executive produced by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, co-founders of Magical Elves, producer of the hit cable reality series Project Runway and Top Chef for Bravo. Richard Bye is an executive producer and Casey Kriley a co-executive producer.

The show is a major evolution for the TV Guide Network—which recently changed its name from TV Guide Channel—as it continues to expand its brand beyond a program-listing service.

The network recently had a major acquisition in the re-air rights to the entire Surreal TV library from Debmar/Mercury (B&C, 4/16). But O'Hara calls America's Next Producer its biggest original production to date.

With that in mind, during the show, the network will bench its program listings that usually scroll through a portion of the screen. It is the first time outside of the network's trademark award-show red-carpet coverage that a program will earn all that real estate.