Fox Networks Group’s Rita Tuzon Picked as Variety’s In-House Counsel of the Year

Company's executive VP and general counsel forges a path through the disruptions of new technology

Ad-skipping technology, live TV streaming and over-the-top alternatives are just a few of the rapid changes in the TV landscape that have been at the center of Rita Tuzon’s job.

As executive VP and general counsel of Fox Networks Group, she plays a lead role in navigating the disruptive forces in the industry — some of which have been met with networks’ embrace and others with a challenge to copyright infringement.

“The industry was in a long period of stability,” says Tuzon — Variety’s Legal Impact Counsel of the Year for 2015. “But there have been changes in the business where it is fundamental that we take a stand.”

Fox played a highly visible role as one of the broadcast plaintiffs in the challenge to start-up streaming service Aereo, in a case that made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in favor of the TV networks.

But Fox also has been engaged in a protracted legal tangle with Dish Network, which won significant legal rulings over its ad-skipping Hopper service yet still has to contend with perennially thorny negotiations for retransmission of Fox content. And those negotiations have become ever-more complicated with emerging over-the-top video services like Apple TV.

Tuzon says the way to meet challenges of digital rights is to be “very forward-looking and strategic. We are in a time of change. Each of the negotiations affects the next one.”

Tuzon had an unlikely path to her role as one of the industry’s top legal executives. She was raised in Watsonville, Calif., by a father who was a tractor driver in lettuce fields and a mother who was a reading resource teacher.

Tuzon credits an “immigrant ethic” in influencing her to do well in school and go to college, one of the few in her community to do so. She went to Stanford U., intent on pursuing a career in medicine, but her plans changed when she was persuaded to take the LSAT in senior year. She got into UC Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law.

After graduation and passing the Bar exam in 1984, she originally worked for a law firm that specialized in health-related issues. But she joined Hill Wynne Troop & Meisinger in 1987, with her first day marked by the news that the firm landed Johnny Carson as a client.

Lou Meisinger, who would later go on to be general counsel of the Walt Disney Co. and a judge in Los Angeles Superior Court, was a mentor.

Her experience was also marked by the firm’s representation in defending Fox in a case brought by Tracey Ullman over merchandising profits from “The Simpsons.” In 1992, a jury ruled in Fox’s favor.

“That was a groundbreaking case because studios really did not bring a case to trial with a star on the other side,” says Tuzon, who was made partner that same year.

She went inhouse at Fox in 1997 as senior VP of litigation, quickly seeing big differences from working as an outside counsel. “You are looking at a lot of other considerations,” she says.

Tuzon’s husband, Richard Stone, is a litigator at Jenner & Block, which represented Fox in the Aereo and Dish Network cases, and they have two children, ages 13 and 17.

Although she says, “anybody who tells you that you can have it all and it’s easy is lying,” she does make a point of being “100% present with my family.”

Tuzon’s activities include mentoring students who are part of the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies. “That’s often the happiest part of my day,” she says.

Although litigation garners headlines and, at least when a case hits the high court, an adrenaline rush, Tuzon cites work with integrating Fox’s international channels as a major accomplishment of the past year. “I want to be more strategic in looking around the globe — and not be in silos,” Tuzon says.

Her day starts early, checking emails from Europe at 6 a.m. and, before going to bed, emails from Asia. “The world is smaller — and bigger,” she says.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • AtmosphereThe Current State of Play in

    New York’s PlayStation Theater to Close (EXCLUSIVE)

    New York’s PlayStation Theater, a 2,100-capacity venue located in Times Square and operated by Bowery Presents, will close at the end of 2019, a source close to the situation tells Variety. The venue will close with a New Year’s series of shows from the Disco Biscuits. The theater, which is located two stories beneath the [...]

  • Courtesy of Earwolf

    How Lauren Lapkus Tossed the Script and Created a Podcasting Hit

    Lauren Lapkus has tossed the script on what makes most podcasts a hit. At a time when many of the most downloaded shows are true crime investigations or celebrity interviews, she’s doing something entirely different on each episode of “With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus.” Each hour-long installment is a free-wheeling, completely improvised ride. One show [...]


    WWE's 'NXT' Moves to USA Network as Wrestling Competition Heats Up

    WWE has struck a deal to move its “NXT” franchise focusing on rising stars to USA Network starting next month. “NXT” will shift to USA from the WWE Network subscription streaming service as of Sept. 18. The deal comes as USA is about to lose WWE’s “SmackDown” showcase to Fox starting in October. USA is [...]

  • Shazam

    Apple Music Launches 'Shazam Discovery' Chart, Focused on New Artists

    Apple Music today launched the “Shazam Discovery Top 50,” a weekly, global ranking of 50 artists that it describes as “on the move and trending” — in other words, new and emerging artists. While the company wouldn’t say much specifically about how the chart is tabulated, it uses “Shazam’s proprietary algorithms [to offer] a unique predictive view [...]

  • The Chainsmokers Production Company

    Chainsmokers’ Catalog Acquired by Fast-Growing Hipgnosis Songs

    The Chainsmokers’ writer and publishing rights have been acquired by the fast-growing Hipgnosis Songs and its investment adviser, The Family (Music) Limited, for an undisclosed amount, the company announced today. The company has acquired 100% of the Chainsmokers’ interest in 32 of the duo’s songs, including ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) income in [...]

  • Hollywood Recession Business Placeholder

    How an Economic Downturn Could Ravage Hollywood

    Trade-war fears, stock market volatility and, most recently, bond market signals that point to a pending recession are rattling investors, igniting concerns that another devastating downturn may be just around the corner. As those worries reverberate all the way from Wall Street to Hollywood, the entertainment industry is in for an unsettling reminder of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content