Still in Fox family

20th TV prexys reup in multi-year deal

Dana Walden and Gary Newman are staying put at 20th Century Fox TV, sealing a new deal to remain in charge of the studio.

Under the multi-year pact, Walden and Newman will continue to share the title of president, a job they’ve held since November 1999.

Fox Entertainment Group/News Corp. prexy-chief operating officer Peter Chernin, who made the announcement Tuesday, praised the duo as “two of the most perceptive, creative and aggressive executives in our organization.”

“Under their leadership the studio has thrived both creatively and financially and, equally as important, has led the industry in redefining the traditional studio model,” he said.

Financial terms were not disclosed on the deal, which was the culmination of a lengthy negotiation. According to early buzz, a deal was less than certain — with financial concerns at issue (Daily Variety, Nov. 16).

The duo’s contracts expired in mid-November, with nary a peep from the studio; in recent weeks, however, talks to finalize a pact gained steam.

Walden and Newman said there ultimately weren’t “extraordinary” sticking points.

“We are a team, and the two of us were negotiating together,” Walden said. “We both have reps, and a lot of people needed to be coordinated in making this deal. It was more time consuming than we had thought.”

After evaluating their other options, Walden and Newman said they couldn’t contemplate making a move away from the studio they had nurtured over the past five years.

“We continue to be committed to building a studio that’s viewed as a home for great writers, directors and performers,” Walden said.

Added Newman: “The performance of the various networks over the last several years indicate that this isn’t business as usual. Within that landscape we’re finding a way to remain one of the leading program suppliers, and the leading distributor of the programs we create around the world.”

Under their watch, 20th Century Fox has developed a stable of hit skeins, such as “24,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Reba,” “The Simple Life,” “Still Standing” and critical fave “Arrested Development.” Studio’s new round of programs include “Boston Legal,” “Quintuplets,” “North Shore,” “Point Pleasant,” “American Dad” and John Stamos’ untitled series.

The studio was an early proponent of TV on DVD, even bringing out the first season of “24” to use as a promotional tool for the show’s second season. Twentieth also recently struck a deal with Vodafone to develop a “24” spinoff for mobile phones (Daily Variety, Nov. 10).

With the duo in charge, 20th was also the top primetime series supplier for several seasons at the nets (a title that has since returned to Warner Bros. TV).

For next season, Walden and Newman’s goals include continuing to provide programming for all of the networks in addition to bulking up its stable of comedies and jumping into the procedural drama business.

Twentieth also entered the development season looking to package more projects early, “bringing in at an early stage an interesting feature director or performer who would add layers to the project,” Newman said.

Under Walden and Newman, the studio has projects in the works from scribes such as Steven Levitan, Hart Hanson and Rich Appel, and it is looking to develop vehicles for Alicia Silverstone, Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra and Chris Elliot, among others.

“They’re the perfect team — one is incredibly tough and the other looks hot in a short skirt,” quipped Levitan. “Which, with Gary’s legs, is not easy to pull off.”

Walden and Newman were promoted to the job after previous 20th Century Fox TV prexy Sandy Grushow was bumped up to head both the network and studio operations in 1999. Newman had previously served as exec VP of the studio, handling its business affairs, while Walden was exec VP of drama, overseeing 20th’s strong stable of hourlong skeins.

“The complement each other incredibly well,” said CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler. “They’re real straight shooters and they really know their business.”

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