TCA 2018: Fox TV Execs Say ‘Business as Usual’ Until Disney Deal Closes

Complete Coverage: 2018 TCA Winter Press Tour

Pasadena, Calif. — Fox execs were quick to address the “mouse” in the room Thursday, during the network’s 2018 TCA winter press tour session.

“Over the next 12 to 18 months it’s really business as usual,” said Dana Walden, chairman and CEO, Fox Television Group, referring to the time period it is expected to take for Disney’s acquisition of Fox assets, including the television studio, to close.

In December, Disney announced plans to acquire 20th Century Fox’s movie and television studios along with cable channels FX, FXX, and National Geographic and Fox’s regional sports networks. Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Sports and Fox O&Os will all be spun off into what Newman called “New Fox.”“I would be lying if I didn’t say there wasn’t anxiety that week the deal was announced,” said Gary Newman, chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group. “All of us talked with many of our producers about it and I think that we assured them that this is going to be business as usual.”

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“I think the future bodes extremely well for the creators who are working for 20th, whether there shows are at Fox or otherwise,” We think the studio is going to remain very robust and the future will be bright for our creative partners.”

After that 12-18 months, though, Newman said they don’t know what will happen.

“I certainly did not mean to give any hints as to what the future might be,” said Newman. “The truth is we really don’t know. But I will tell you that we remain super committed to the network and studio.”

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Walden echoed Newman’s sentiment, adding “I think there’s so much to be done. We are incredibly committed to our team.”

Some merger watchers have wondered whether the Mouse House will look to Disneyfy Fox’s fare, which includes the oft-raunchy animated comedy Family Guy and provocative productions on both Fox and sister cable nets FX and FXX.

“When we did hear from Disney management, they were incredibly vocal to us about how much they liked our brand,” said Newman. “How much they admired the programming that we did. And every expectation we have is that they’re not acquiring Fox to somehow turn it into some form of a PG company.”

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Walden also said earlier in the session that Fox shows won’t move to ABC.

“My expectation is they’re going to be encouraging of our content,” said Newman. “They’re going to be supportive of our creative partners and they are very excited about the additional scale that this deal is going to provide for them.”

As for the “New Fox,” Newman said without a production studio in-house, there are a lot of options.

“What’s exciting about it is that the entire environment is wide open to them,” he said. “They won’t be beholden to a studio. They can buy from anyone. They can buy in any new way that gets dreamt up.”

Other highlights from the executive session included:

Prison Break fans can rejoice. “We are developing a new iteration of Prison Break,” said Michael Thorn, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company. “It’s very early stages of development. But we’re really excited about it and when we know more, we’ll be happy to share more.”

—Rob Wade, president of alternative entertainment and specials for Fox Broadcasting Company, talked about Fox’s upcoming competition show The Four. ”We’re getting a lot of great feedback about the positivity about how simple and clean the format is,” he said of the six-week event. “We bought it because it was fresh. It was original. It’s gladiatorial.”

—Fox hasn’t made a decision yet on So You Think You Can Dance with Wade saying only that “we’re looking at all our options for the summer.”

—Walden fielded a question about the fate of Fox’s DC shows Gotham and Lucifer with the pending merger with Disney, which owns Marvel. “It’s a little bit early to be talking about that,” she said. “We’re very happy with the creative on both of those shows right now. But we don’t have anything to announce.”

—Former Fox singing juggernaut American Idol will soon premiere on Disney-owned ABC. Of the new iteration of the show, Newman said, “We’re really fine with the show continuing and I wish them a little bit of luck. No too much. We’ll see what they can do.”

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is content engagement director of Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV. She has been with the brands in various roles since 2013. In her current role, she works primarily behind the screen, keeping an eye on the website and fixing any site bugs. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects for NextTV, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.