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A new reality for Fremantle

Media company taps Frot-Coutaz for CEO

FremantleMedia has tapped Cecile Frot-Coutaz CEO of FremantleMedia North America, the company behind the production of “American Idol” and a key player on the international programming scene.

Frot-Coutaz, who is chief operating officer of FMNA as well as an exec producer on “Idol,” has had business and operational leadership roles both in the U.S. and Europe.

One of her chief tasks in running the U.S. operation will be to consolidate the company’s grip on reality formats and extend relationships with other broadcast players beyond the Fox network. Just recently, Frot-Coutaz landed projects at NBC and at ABC, the latter with “Idol” host Simon Cowell attached.

Frot-Coutaz, who is French but is reckoned to have a solid grasp of how TV operations work Stateside, has been one of the main supervisors for “American Idol.” She will continue to oversee the show.

Frot-Coutaz replaces Tom Gutteridge, who returned to the U.K. in March after a one-year stint. During his tenure, FMNA developed a number of “instant sitcom” concepts for cable. Before Gutteridge, Aussie native David Lyle headed the American offshoot but left to take a job as COO of the Fox Reality Channel in 2004.

Unlike Gutteridge and Lyle, who reported to the regional FremantleMedia CEO Catherine Mackay, Frot-Coutaz negotiated to report directly to the London head office CEO Tony Cohen.

Track record

“Cecile has had a tremendous track record of achievement at FremantleMedia over the last 10 years, and we believe she has the skills to grow the business in this key market,” Cohen said. “We have a great creative team in the U.S., and under Cecile we hope to develop programming that complements our existing slate and builds on the success of ‘American Idol.’ ”

In her 10 years with FremantleMedia, Frot-Coutaz has held numerous positions in both London and the U.S. Prior to her appointment as COO of production in 2002, she was exec veepee of commercial and operations at FMNA, after a period developing online and interactive businesses for FremantleMedia (formerly Pearson Television).

In 1997 Frot-Coutaz was a key member of the team that acquired and then managed the integration of production company All-American TV into the Fremantle fold.

She then became deputy CEO Southern Europe and, in January 1999, added managing director France to her responsibilities.

Based in Santa Monica and with offices in New York, FMNA also has produced Fox reality series “The Swan”; the company recently completed a 12-episode series of the comedy gameshow “Distraction” for Comedy Central.

Playing games

From its acquisition of All American, Fremantle handles the production of long-running gameshows such as “The Price Is Right” and “Family Feud” as well as the U.S. format of the British lifestyle hit “How Clean Is Your House?” for Lifetime.

Meanwhile, Mackay also received an additional title and new responsibilities in the company.

FremantleMedia North America is setting up a new content division — New Platforms — which will be led by Mackay as CEO.

Mackay will be responsible for growing FremantleMedia’s capabilities to create, produce and supply original entertainment for new platforms and devices.

Mackay will continue as CEO of Enterprises, the division that comprises the company’s existing ancillary rights and international distribution businesses, FremantleMedia Licensing Worldwide (FLW) and Fremantle Intl. Distribution (FID), respectively.

Simon Spalding, chief exec of FLW, and David Ellender, managing director of FID, will continue to report to Mackay.

Mackay has been appointed to this position from her previous role as regional chief exec, USA, Australia and Asia and CEO for FremantleMedia Enterprises. She will remain based in New York and also report to Cohen.

Both Mackay and Frot-Coutaz will sit on the company’s board.

FMNA is a division of programming giant FremantleMedia, which produces content in more than 40 countries. FremantleMedia is the production arm of the likewise giant European RTL Group, which itself is a division of the privately held German-based conglom Bertelsmann.

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