Fox Broadcasting has recruited a new leader for its alternative programming department, a move that was expected after the quick demise this season of the costly unscripted series “Utopia.”
Electus and ABC alum Corie Henson has been tapped exec VP of alternative entertainment. She replaces Simon Andreae, who held the job for little more than a year. Andreae is shifting to a production pact with the network.
The hire was confirmed Friday by Fox TV Group chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden. Henson will report to Fox entertainment president David Madden.
“Corie has the perfect combination of broadcast and producing experience to help us move our unscripted brand forward. … Corie clearly knows what it’s like to be on the creative side of the business, but also has a proven track record of developing and shepherding big, broad network hits,” said Newman and Walden. “As we look to expand our alternative slate, Corie will play a key role in helping us find and launch the next generation of bold, aspirational and adventurous Fox reality fare.”
Andreae was seen as being on thin ice after Fox pulled the plug on “Utopia,” an ambitious effort that aimed to offer round-the-clock coverage of a group of 15 strangers trying to build a new society with minimal provisions at an isolated ranch in the Santa Clarita area.
The series was designed to air multiple times a week on Fox — and 24/7 as a SVOD offering — for a yearlong span but it only lasted about two months. “Utopia” was the first big project championed by Andreae after the former producer and Discovery exec joined the network in October 2013.
Andreae had a tough assignment from the get-go in filling the role at the network held for more than 15 years by Mike Darnell, one of the execs who helped shape the modern unscripted business. He was also recruited by Kevin Reilly, who was edged out of Fox last June. Oversight of the network’s programming shifted the following month to longtime 20th Century Fox TV studio chiefs Newman and Walden.
Newman and Walden have emphasized that they’re focus for Fox’s reality programming is lighter, funnier and more hopeful than many of the network’s past efforts. Henson’s background as an exec at ABC included working on “Dancing With the Stars,” “Shark Tank” and “Extreme Makeover.” She moved to Electus in the fall of 2013 where she was exec VP of unscripted television, working on such series as “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” and the upcoming TruTV’s “Breaking Greenville.”
“Fox has always been an innovator and leader in unscripted television,” said Henson. “I’m grateful to Dana, Gary and David for the opportunity to be part of this legacy where talent matters most and great producers and creativity are valued.”
Henson will oversee Fox’s unscripted series and specials. The “American Idol” franchise, however, will remain the purview of David Hill, a longtime Fox/News Corp. exec who stepped in to help overhaul the show and the now-defunct “The X Factor” in 2013 after Darnell exited the company (he’s now at Warner Bros.).
In addition to the cloud left by “Utopia,” Andreae’s run at the network was complicated by the fact that he frequently traveled to the U.K. to visit his family, who did not relocate when he took the Fox job. Andreae said he was proud of the “strong team” of reality executives he assembled during his short tenure.
“We have a really exciting range of new unscripted shows in the pipeline, and I am looking forward to continuing to collaborate with the Fox team in this new role,” he said.