Fox Broadcasting Co. chairman Lucie Salhany told affiliates Thursday the program service can no longer rely on other studios as suppliers and needs to develop more programming internally “so that our destiny always remains in our hands.”
Salhany, who began at Fox Inc. as chairman of production arm Twentieth TV, said in a speech provided to press (the sessions were actually off-limits to reporters) that the company will look more to Twentieth in the future “to develop programming that meets our needs.”
She added that Fox’s involvement in a basic cable service, fashioned with Tele-Communications Inc. as a means of addressing the retransmission consent issue, also positions Fox for the future with a “structural building block” against a backdrop of vertical integration, which is control of production, distribution and exhibition. “That’s where the future is,” she said.
Fox needs to be more vertically integrated, Salhany said, as a defensive measure against being shut off by the vertical control of other companies.
“The day may come, for example, when Time Warner is only interested in clearing their shows on their networks,” Salhany noted, pointing to the number of MCA and Paramount shows airing on their joint venture, the USA network, as well as Viacom’s integration through cable networks and systems.
According to Salhany, who was responsible for pulling the plug on the ABC sitcom “Anything But Love” because of a perceived lack of syndication value, Fox can’t rely on outside suppliers — who may be unwilling or unable to cover deficits or find back-end deals to justify production — for the sort of high-profile programming it needs to remain competitive.
“The only way we can provide you with the best programming in the future is if it makes financial sense to do so, and this cable channel helps achieve that end,” she said.
Although Fox, unlike the Big Three networks, is subject to no restraints in terms of supplying its own programming, the studio will produce roughly a third of its series next fall, about the same as ABC, NBC and CBS. That includes only three series from Twentieth out of the 18 scheduled, although another show comes from Fox News and two more are through the Fox Television Stations.
Fox also will be a production partner in original projects for “Fox Night at the Movies” through its Fox West Pictures. Fox recently announced its first miniseries and is negotiating on four more, with the intent to greenlight 10 made-fors before December and another 15 during calendar-year ’94.
Also, Salhany said Fox has committed more than $ 80 million to acquiring theatricals for the movie slot, including several titles to bypass cable and go directly to broadcast.
Twentieth has endeavored to maintain its position as a supplier to all four services and not just act as an in-house arm for Fox Broadcasting. ABC Prods., a unit of CapCities/ABC, has also sought to place shows elsewhere, including the Fox series “Class of ’96.”
In her speech, Salhany compared her first 100 days as Fox chairman to Bill Clinton’s tenure as president, quipping that both “want to increase spending for new programs” and that her hairdresser now “wants to cut my hair on Rupert’s jet.”
By reaching seven nights a week of programming, Fox has attained a “mature stage” in its development and is now entering “a pivotal juncture” in its history, Salhany said, reiterating the desire to broaden Fox’s appeal within the age 18-49 demographic and eventually be No. 1 by that standard.
The Big Three networks, she added, are “doing their part” in helping Fox achieve that goal, having dropped to an aggregate 60 share during the 1992-93 season. “The gap between us and them gets smaller and smaller,” she said.
Salhany said certain shows last season, like “The Edge” and “Ben Stiller,” were too narrow in their appeal but that next fall’s lineup addresses those concerns.
She also put in a pitch for “The Chevy Chase Show,” calling late night “a time period where Fox belongs” because much of its audience is also available there. The Chase show, she said, has an advantage with its 11 p.m. start time and will be significantly different from other late night talkers.
Fox announced the Fox News magazine “Front Page” will premiere June 26 in its regular Saturday at 9 p.m. time period. The reality series “Code 3,” which had been airing in the “Page” slot, will move to 9:30 p.m. Fridays as of June 25.
Separately, ABC said its third news hour, “Day One,” will return in its 8 p.m. Monday slot next week. Another news show, CBS’ “Eye to Eye With Connie Chung,” is slated to bow June 17.