Fox Entertainment, now a network devoid of a companion studio, has inked an exclusive broadcast-only overall deal with “Criminal Minds” and “Teen Wolf” creator Jeff Davis, in what it says will be the first of a series of direct deals with creators. This new model is designed to remove some of the layers from the creative process, Fox Entertainment’s president of entertainment Michael Thorn told Variety.
“We’re being really strategic about looking for smart ways to develop the best content without the extreme overhead that comes with a big studio,” he said.
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Following the split of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets — creating a “New Fox” that houses, alongside Fox Entertainment, a cable news channel, sports cable channel and television stations — Thorn said that the network’s initial goal was to make co-production deals with studios, which was “really successful.”
But in looking to further streamline the process, he said that the aim now is for Fox Entertainment to make a handful of overall deals and develop projects in-house while still working with other studios. It will utilize its Gail Berman-led content accelerator, SideCar, as a talent pipeline. The network will also lean on its newly acquired animation house Bento Box Entertainment to develop animated projects both for the Fox network and to offer up to the general marketplace.
One of the criticisms of broadcast, says Thorn, is that there are too many notes and layers to the process. Under the new Fox Entertainment model, creatives will no longer get notes from both the studio and the network — often a source of consternation for writers — just from Thorn and his team.
“That removal of layers has become really attractive to a lot of talent,” he said. “We have been meeting with writers and managers and some producers and directors to say, ‘Come make a deal with us, we’re only going to make a handful of these deals, we really believe in you and your voice, and we’ll remove all the layers and we’ll have a very simple, organic, creative experience.’ And once we trigger production on something that we’re going to greenlight, we’ll look at how we can create other partners in that process down the road.'”
For example: If the network greenlights a new Jeff Davis drama, Thorn said the company could then decide to produce it internally or with a studio partner.
“What we offer to [Davis] is a broadcast-exclusive deal, where all his broadcast will be done with us, but he still has goals to do streaming and other kinds of programming,” said Thorn.
Fox Entertainment “paid a premium” for Davis to keep all of his broadcast ambitions at the Fox network, though Thorn would not specify how much.
“Enough to make him happy,” he said.
The goal is for Davis to develop three or four projects for the network annually, allowing him flexibility to work elsewhere, said Thorn, calling it a “win-win.”
“We knew, going in, he was planning on writing at least one thing for us and supervising a couple things,” said Thorn. “He liked having a home with direct contact with me and my drama team, so we can have a dialogue about how to get his projects on the air.”
Expect to see more deal announcements from Fox Entertainment in the coming weeks and months, though the agreements will not necessarily be the same as the overall struck with Davis.
Some might be a direct-script deal, or involve the acquisition of IP. Thorn has hired a book scout in New York who is searching for existing material from which to develop programming. The company has just closed a deal on a book, he said; the project, a “messy family drama with a franchise at the center,” so far has no attachments.
“I think in our deals with writers, the way we’re trying to acquire IP and look for the best partner — all our moves there are looking at different ways to re-approach the process, get the best creators and hopefully make a hit out of a couple of these projects.”