FX, Fox plan more minis and limited series

HBO exec Gina Balian joins FX Prods. to oversee longform prod'n

In a move that signals a renewed focus on longform programming at FX and its sibling Fox network, former HBO exec Gina Balian has been named senior VP of limited series for FX and FX Prods.

Balian will oversee development of limited series and minis for FX and FX Movie Channel. Fox will continue to handle its own longform development and acquisitions butwill use FX Prods. for production of limited summer series, with Balian overseeing those productions on behalf of Fox.

She will report to both Nick Grad, exec VP of FX original programming, and Eric Schrier, exec VP of FX Prods. and head of series development.

Balian’s appointment strengthens the ties between Fox and the fast-growing FX Prods. unit. Fox aims to order its first event series next summer, with a tentative 2014 air date.

“We have been signaling our appetite for large-scale, high-impact event series for Fox for many months,” said Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly. “We’re going to create quality 10- to 12-part events that can stand alone or be evolved into franchises.”

Reilly believes that Fox can no longer afford to rely on reality fare in the summer. He envisions the limited series and miniseries business as an opportunity to jump-start a genre that can draw attention during the months between the end and beginning of the traditional broadcast season when original scripted content is virtually nonexistent.

“We want to re-establish the scripted business in the summer,” he told Variety. “The network model predicated on repeats has become very challenging, and many viewers position summer as either leftovers or cheap fare. We’re going strategically opposite. We want to put something on that’s appointment quality and high profile.

“There’s huge potential here to have a big impact and do fine work. There are stories that are better told with multiparts and a closed end that are not a two-hour movie nor a five-year series.”

Reilly, who anticipates that each mini or limited series would run between six and 12 hours, said the goal would be to launch one project each summer. He wouldn’t rule out the possibility that a mini could evolve into a series if there was an appetite for the story to continue.

Reilly already has several projects in mind but said these would take a while to get off the ground.

FX has already ventured into the miniseries business with “American Horror Story.” The project was considered a miniseries for Emmy purposes this year because the franchise is returning for a second season with new cast members and an entirely fresh storyline.

Balian’s appointment is also a sign that FX is looking to raise the profile of FX Movie Channel, which is important to Landgraf and his exec team. FX Movie Channel, a 12-hour block that runs on Fox Movie Channel, relaunched in January and has seen primetime ratings increase 200%.

“Ultimately, we would like to get into the miniseries and event series business, and produce original content” for FX Movie Networks,” Landgraf said. “It’s like FX in many ways, but slightly older skewing.”

And by partnering with FX Prods. — the inhouse studio that co-produces FX dramas such as “Justified” and “Sons of Anarchy,” as well as producing comedies “Louie” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” — minis that air on either Fox, FX or FX Movie Channel would remain in the Fox family.

Landgraf also said that miniseries often present opportunity for A-list talent that don’t have the time for a multiyear series commitment but want to do something they are passionate about that would last 6-10 hours.

“Talent wants to work in all forms. Some want to do a seven-year series with 22 or 13 episodes, but others want to work for just one year,” Landgraf said. “It always comes back to the storytelling.”

Miniseries and event programming was a staple of broadcast programming for decades with such seminal fare as “Roots,” “The Thorn Birds” and “The Winds of War,” but the genre has faded away from broadcast over the past decade. Fox and FX both may be inspired by the huge viewers total that came to cabler History for its “Hatfields & McCoys” mini.

At HBO, Balian was senior veep of drama series, responsible for such skeins as “Rome,” “Tell Me You Love Me” and “In Treatment.” She also oversaw much of the creative on “Luck” and “Game of Thrones.”

She will begin at FX on Nov. 1.

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