Fox Cable Nets lifts Liguori creatively

Exec named CEO, will remain prexy

The Fox Cable Networks Group has presented CEO stripes to Peter Liguori, while he will also remain president of FX and Fox Movie Channel.

Promotion, which gives him responsibility for creating new programming services, is part of a new, five-year deal worth mid-to-high seven figures over five years, including salary, a signing bonus and annual bonuses.

Jeff Shell, president and CEO of the Fox Cable Networks Group, said one of Liguori’s new duties is to find fresh dollars in interactive services spun off from FX, such as video-on-demand or pay-per-view of the network’s original movies and series.

But Shell said the company has put on hold its proposed Fox Classics 24-hour digital network, whose programming was to consist of series reruns and movies from the 20th Century Fox library. Citing a sluggish economy, Shell said there’s very little demand among cable operators right now for a new network.

Under Liguori’s guidance, FX has added 18 million households in the last year, making it the second-fastest growing cable net in the industry, behind Fox News Channel. FX reaches a total of 73 million homes.

Announcement of Liguori’s new deal comes during a week when Shell issued an internal memo itemizing a list of cost cuts, including everything from an overall hiring freeze to a clampdown on cell-phone expense reports to advance approval of all business meals.

‘Ally’ ailing

Liguori’s promotion also comes at a time when FX appears to be stumbling with reruns of “Ally McBeal” and “The Practice,” which premiered in primetime three weeks ago to sub-par ratings.

FX paid its sister company Twentieth TV a license fee of $675,000 an hour for each series, and the Nielsen results could end up drenching the network in red ink.

For example, “Ally” has managed a 0.5 household rating for the first 14 telecasts (it runs every weeknight at 8 p.m.), the same depressed number drawn by “NYPD Blue” reruns in the time period a year ago. The household base is small, but at least “Ally” is up by 33% over “NYPD” among women 18-34 and women 18-49.

Worse for FX, the first 14 episodes of “Practice” (weeknights at 9) are averaging a sub-par 0.4 rating, 20% below last year’s time-period inhabitant, reruns of “The X-Files.” “Practice” is down from “X-Files” by double digits in every major demographic category below the age of 55.

‘Buffy’ shows teeth

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the third rerun hour that kicked off in a block with “Ally” and “Practice” on FX, at least shows promise among teenagers and young adults. In its 7 p.m. time period, “Buffy” averaged a 0.9 rating, which was off by 10% from the two half-hours of “MASH” in the slot a year ago. But “Buffy” beat “MASH” in all of the key demos from children to adults 25-54.

Liguori said that scheduling changes could be in the offing.

Before taking the reins at FX, Liguori was senior VP of marketing for Fox/Liberty Networks, where he was a driving force behind Fox Sports Net’s launch. Prior to joining Fox in 1996, he was VP of consumer marketing at HBO.

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