Longtime skedding topper to shift to advisory role

Longtime Fox Broadcasting Co. skedding topper Preston Beckman, the reigning dean of network program planning execs, will transition to a new role as senior strategist for Fox Networks Group.

Starting in June, the new role calls for Beckman to offer skedding, programming and research insights for various Fox Networks Group outlets, reporting to Peter Rice, FNG chairman of entertainment.

“Fox has been incredibly fortunate to have Preston guiding our schedule for the past decade and seven consecutive years of No. 1 finishes,” Rice said in announcing Beckman’s segue. “His strategic mind and love of television make him the Muhammad Ali of scheduling executives.”

The decision to shift to a lower gear came at Beckman’s behest. He had initially planned to retire this year, but Rice convinced him to remain in the fold in a different capacity. “He was very persuasive and gracious,” Beckman said.

Beckman has been with Fox the past 11 years, serving as exec veep of strategic program planning and research. Before Fox, he spent nearly 20 years at NBC and was a key member of the Peacock’s programming team in its 1990s heyday.

Highlights of his Fox tenure include the decision to sked the real-time drama “24” in an uninterrupted January-May run and helping to craft the skedding and twice-weekly skedding pattern for “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance” and “The X Factor.” Beckman was quick to praise the programming execs he’s worked with over the years, including Rice and entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly and network alumni Peter Liguori and Gail Berman.

Beckman maintains that the role of broadcast networks and scheduling remains vital, despite all the industry focus on on-demand viewing options and changing consumer behaviors. “To me the exciting thing about this business is that you’re still going to need hits,” Beckman said. “It’s still about how you aggregate audiences and use your schedule to create new hits.”

Beckman is well-liked in the biz and known for the candid observations he shares on his Twitter feed, where he’s dubbed “The Masked Scheduler.”

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