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Hire moves Fox closer to Reality

Lyle joins as FRC on track to kick off with 17 million subs

NEW YORK — Reruns of the smash hit “American Idol” are off the table, but Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Reality Channel moved closer to a go next spring with the hiring of David Lyle as head of operations.

The FRC is on track to kick off with an unusually high opening-day subscriber count of 17 million, thanks in large part to Murdoch’s pickup of satcaster DirecTV, which is expected to make the net available to most of its 13.5 million customers.

Two other carriers are also on board, EchoStar’s Dish Network and Cox Communications, which have agreed to carry FRC on digital basic, making the network available to all subscribers with a digital box. FRC is making it worth the distributors’ while to get the net to as many of their subscribers as possible by lowering monthly license fees for wider carriage.

Lyle, who was most recently president of entertainment for FremantleMedia, said FRC sister the Fox network has vetoed the idea of allowing FRC to schedule reruns of “American Idol” because “Fox doesn’t want to overextend the brand.”

The Fox network has learned the lesson of ABC, which created a monster primetime hit in 2000 in “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and then destroyed the show by scheduling it as many as five hours in a given week. Audience quickly grew tired of the show and ABC canceled it in June 2002.

But Lyle said FRC will be able to draw on reruns of other Fox network reality series like “The Simple Life” and “Temptation Island,” as well as produce as many original series as the programming budget will allow. He said it’s too early to go into detail on original shows in development.

FRC’s business plan calls for the network to break even by the fifth year, when license fees from cable operators combined with revenue from advertisers should exceed the expenses needed to run the channel.

Lyle knows “American Idol” intimately because he helped to launch the show, a production of his previous employer, FremantleMedia.

Before he joined Fremantle in 2001, Oz native Lyle was worldwide head of acquisition and development for England’s Pearson TV. Earlier in his career, Lyle was head of development and acquisitions for Australia’s Nine Network.

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