Kevin Reilly upped to Fox entertainment chairman

Exec expands responsibilities at the network

Fox Broadcasting programming chief Kevin Reilly has been upped to chairman of entertainment, taking on additional areas of oversight at the network.

Promotion comes on the heels of the elevation of his boss, Peter Rice, to chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group last month. With Rice’s plate expanding to include international cable channels and Fox Sports, Reilly will take on additional duties to oversee marketing, research, scheduling and biz affairs for the Fox mothership network.

The chairman job represents a consolidation of power at the network for Reilly, who previously didn’t have oversight of unscripted programming. Mike Darnell, president of alternative programming at Fox, now reports into Reilly, who will have a guiding hand on the genre that has been a big piece of real estate at the net, between franchises like “American Idol” and “The X Factor.”

Reilly, previously prexy of entertainment, has been with Fox since 2007, when he segued from the same post at NBC.

“Kevin is a uniquely gifted executive with the strong strategic vision and creative instincts to ensure that Fox continues to drive the future of our industry,” Rice said in announcing the promotion.

Said Reilly: “I am grateful to Peter for extending my role at Fox where I’m inspired every day by the incredible leadership of Joe Earley, Mike Darnell and our entire team at the network–as well as the leadership above us at News Corp. This is a transformative time in our industry–one that presents huge opportunities–and we intend for Fox, and all of our programming, to remain the gold standard for innovation.”

The promotion is also validation of Reilly’s success at the network over his tenure. Fox has been the top-rated broadcaster in the all-important 18-49 demographic since he got there largely on the strength of juggernaut “American Idol,” but he also gets credit for stewardship of long-running hours from “Glee” to “Bones.” His biggest accomplishment to date at Fox may have been the launch of new comedy hit “New Girl.”

But the 2012-13 season may provide Reilly his biggest test yet given the rapid decline of “Idol” and a gamble on Tuesday with “Girl” expected to anchor a two-hour comedy block. He already acknowledged last month at the TV Critics Assn. press tour that CBS is likely to interrupt Fox’s eight-year streak as the top 18-49 network this season.

Reilly has been aggressive about innovating at the network including the launch of a new standalone production entity, Animation Domination, to create content for digital platforms and the installment of David Wertheimer, as president of digital at Fox.

The promotion also reins in another oversight outlier during Reilly’s presidency: scheduling, which under Preston Beckman reported directly into Rice until Beckman was elevated to a new role in January. Since Dan Harrison was named executive VP of scheduling he’s reported into Reilly but the promotion formalizes the de facto structure. Scheduling and research, which were previously one combined unit under Beckman, will remain separate, with Melva Benoit, senior VP consumer insight and audience research, reporting to Reilly.

Other execs that previously reported to Rice that shift to Reilly including Joe Earley, president of marketing and communications, and Ira Kurgan, chief of executive business operations.

It remains to be seen whether Reilly will make any changes to the executive structure at the network now that he’s moved up. He could conceivably fill the presidency he vacated with an outside hire or an internal promotion. He could also eliminate a layer in the current programming hierarchy and have them report directly into him,

Reilly’s chief lieutenants in programming include Marcy Ross, executive VP of current programming; Terence Carter, senior VP of drama development; Suzanne Makkos and Marcus Wiley, both senior VPs of comedy development.

There’s been a lot of change lately in News Corp.’s TV unit, with David Haslingden, president and COO of Fox Networks Group, exiting, and Fox Sports chairman David Hill getting bumped up to senior executive VP at the conglom.

Reilly began his career at NBC Entertainment, where he returned later in his career at the helm to oversee hits including “The Office” and “30 Rock.” He also served as president of entertainment at FX, where he helped put the cable channel on the map with series including “The Shield and “Nip/Tuck.”