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GRUSHOW BACK AT FOX TV

Sandy Grushow is exiting as president of telco venture Tele-TV to return to his News Corp. stomping grounds as president of 20th Century Fox Television.

Grushow, 36, is filling the post vacated in September by Peter Roth, who moved over to the network as president of the Fox Entertainment Group. Grushow will assume his post Monday.

The exec had served in several posts at Fox Broadcasting Co., culminating in his appointment as Fox Entertainment Group prez; he left that post in 1994. His new contract is said to be for four years.

His decision to depart Tele-TV has been expected for several months. The telco venture, put together by former Creative Artists Agency topper Michael Ovitz, has been adrift for much of the past year, and telcos Bell Atlantic, Nynex and PacTel probably will close the doors later this month or early next month on what was once thought to be the programming and distribution venture of the future. His exit package from the outfit is understood to be worth north of $8 million.

Grushow comes to a division that has five shows on network TV, including “Chicago Hope” and “The X-Files,” and five midseason shows including ABC’s “The Practice,” CBS’ “Temporarily Yours” and Fox’s “King of the Hill.”

Newman’s role

Since Roth’s departure, executive VP Gary Newman has overseen the division. News Corp. is in the process of making a new long-term deal with Newman, who will continue his involvement with 20th as well as assuming additional responsibilities within News Corp.’s expanding TV businesses. He will continue to work closely with News Corp. president and Fox Group CEO Peter Chernin.

In making the appointment, Chernin said Grushow’s “abilities as a programmer and showman are unparalleled in the TV industry, and his appointment as studio president demonstrates our commitment to the production arm of this company.”

Grushow left Fox after News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch decided the network needed to broaden its appeal to older audiences. While at Fox, the exec helped create and launch “The Simpsons,” “In Living Color,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place” and “Martin.”

While he was head of the net, shows such as “X-Files” and “Party of Five” were created. After two years of struggles to launch new comedies, Fox is looking to return to its youthful and edgy programming under Roth, who replaced John Matoian last fall.

“I’m delighted to be back at Fox, the company I called home for more than a dozen years,” Grushow said, adding that he is looking forward to resuming his relationship with Chernin and Murdoch.

Comedy agenda

Over the past two years, 20th Century Fox Television has spent heavily to boost its production team. The agenda mainly has been comedies, and the company has deals with several top writer-producers including Danny Jacobson (“Mad About You”); Vic Rauseo and Linda Morris (“Frasier”); Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss (“Friends”); Eric Gilliland (“Roseanne”); and Chuck Lorre (“Cybill”).

“We have invested a lot of money in the past two years in comedy,” Chernin said. “We will now start to reap the rewards of that investment and find the right home for new series.”

The production company’s drama arm includes Kelley, “X-Files” creator Chris Carter, Glen Morgan, James Wong, David Burke and Henry Bromell.

In June, 20th Century Fox TV restructured its division into comedy and drama units. The comedy unit is headed by senior veep Mindy Schultheis and drama is headed by senior VP Dana Walden.

Grushow’s departure from Tele-TV is another indication that the great telco invasion is history. After tons of publicity and the luring of Grushow and former senior CBS exec Howard Stringer, the Tele-TV partners ultimately decided, for now anyway, to stay out of programming and distribution, which would have meant a battle with cable.

Stringer’s future with Tele-TV also no doubt will end within the next several weeks. There is no word yet as to what his future plans are.

Disney decision

Disney’s Americast, which consists of the studio and telcos Ameritech, Bell South, SBC and GTE, is still in existence, although it has yet to announce any serious rollout plans. Sources close to the operation said Disney is looking for a face-saving way to shut the venture down.

Before this post, Grushow had been wooed for several other high-profile jobs, including his old post as Fox Entertainment Group topper after Matoian exited. However, he did not want to upset his telco partners and chose to wait until 1997 to find a new home.

He joined Fox out of college as a marketing exec on the film side. He moved over to FBC and held a series of marketing posts before taking over programming.

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