When Charlie Collier was at AMC Networks, he led the team that transformed AMC from a somewhat-obscure, all-movie channel to a must-watch network. He greenlit Mad Men and Breaking Bad, shows that redefined TV drama, influenced pop culture and set a new bar for quality in writing, acting and directing. And The Walking Dead became the highest-rated basic-cable show in the history of television. Currently the CEO of FOX Entertainment, Collier is setting the course for the FOX network, now part of Fox Corporation, which houses the sports, news and local station assets that were not taken by The Walt Disney Company when it acquired 21st Century Fox. As he tells World Screen, broadcast television’s tentpole shows and sports appeal to viewers and advertisers. And FOX in particular, as the only independent network, is attracting a wide range of talent, with whom it can carefully curate projects.
WS: What is the role of broadcast networks and how can they remain relevant?
COLLIER: There is an interesting moment in the history of so many startups and companies that are looking to go public. Often, the first thing they do is [advertise on] broadcast TV because they are trying to have mass appeal and cultural impact. And the medium where that still happens in a timely way is broadcast television. There is great strength and power in broadcast. In so many ways, we have an impact like no other. Network television is and remains an incredible storefront. Some events prove this. The FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer is a perfect example. There were 14 million Americans watching broadcast television on FOX—on a Sunday morning, no less. Continuing with sports, between Major League Baseball’s World Series and the NFL’s Super Bowl, there are moments of cultural impact that are built into our schedule all year long. They remain tentpoles, not only for the industry but also for people as they plan their lives. The same is true for entertainment. Last season, the broadcast networks reached a combined 140-plus million total viewers per week. That reach is not just meaningful but can change businesses and impact popular culture.
WS: When you joined FOX, what were its strengths and how do you plan on building on them?
COLLIER: FOX Entertainment is in a unique position: FOX, in and of itself, is different. The company we’re building is the right size and strategically constructed to be a better partner today for creators, advertisers and frankly, for people who believe in the power of broadcast. FOX is also the perfect combination of entertainment and sports. It’s accruing value, not just for the viewer, but for creators and those who benefit from the promotional power of one platform to help the other. Look at the combination of what we’re doing on Wednesdays and Thursdays this fall. On Wednesdays, we have the number one returning show in The Masked Singer, which is a good old-fashioned broadcast hit. Then we have NFL Thursday Night Football on Thursdays, where we think we will have the attention of the country in a meaningful and culturally impactful way. Those two nights are a good metaphor for our schedule; we have entertainment side-by-side with some of the greatest sports on television.
FOX, as a brand and a business, takes risks. It always has and always will. It’s the mandate that I have been given and a legacy I’m proud to uphold.
WS: A lot of media companies are focusing on increasing the amount of programming they produce. What advantages does FOX derive from being able to pay attention to fewer shows?
COLLIER: There absolutely is an advantage to doing fewer things better and being able to know your creators well and handcraft product. We believe FOX right now is a great place to stand out and win.
I remember Vince Gilligan [creator of Breaking Bad] telling me the story of Indiana Jones and how he went through all that work to find the Lost Ark. He escaped boulders and fought snakes and people wielding knives, swords and guns. He finally gets to the Ark, and at the end of the movie, they put it in a warehouse. Vince was talking about that as a metaphor for what happens so often in our business now. You have a lot of people chasing a lot of projects. When they get them, they tend not to do what I love so much about the best of television, which is curate them, uphold them, care for these creators and these projects and roll them out in a way that can change the way we view pop culture. FOX is well positioned to do that.
WS: Don’t showrunners appreciate the value of a show that airs once a week as opposed to releasing an entire season all at once that maybe gets lost in a lot of other content?
COLLIER: I had an important agent and his very recognizable client in my office recently. They were talking about the difference between having a movie and a TV hit. And the TV hit this person was referring to is not an enormous ratings hit, but culturally, it has given him much more recognition and many more touchpoints with the public than he ever expected when he moved from movies to TV. We hear that more and more, not just in the move from film to TV, but also from a closed-ended streaming service to a national broadcast network that offers a simultaneous viewing experience of shared emotion. Broadcast still does that better than anybody, and there is enormous value for all sorts of constituents, certainly the showrunners and talent, but also advertisers and our partners.
WS: What can hit shows on broadcast TV offer advertisers?
COLLIER: At a time when there is so much focus on streaming services and non-advertising-supported services, we are proudly ad-supported. We’re one of the few places that are getting more advertiser-friendly, not less. That is because we have such a good combination of sports and entertainment. It’s also because we believe that network television remains the biggest and best storefront window for an event and for weekly events that advertisers support. When you have a reach of 140 million total viewers per week, there is a reason why marketers—and a range of marketers, from tech companies to the very streaming platforms themselves—still spend most of their dollars on broadcast television. That’s not because they remember TV from their youth, it’s because television still works. We have such an interesting opportunity at FOX to chart a new course for broadcast television and to define what it means for the next 25 to 50 years.
WS: Will FOX be working with all studios?
COLLIER: Absolutely. As the Disney-Fox transaction closed earlier this year, we knew we would be an independent company. We are still in business with our former brothers and sisters, and now corporate cousins, at 20th Century Fox Television. But we also have Prodigal Son from Warner Bros. Television. Deputy is from Entertainment One. Almost Family is from Universal Television.
WS: What home will talent find at FOX?
COLLIER: I believe we are building a home at FOX for the best creators, and we’re making new types of deals where they can still win in big ways. So often, what has propelled the biggest success stories in TV has been the broadcast model. We are pretty lean, and talent knows who they’re working with. We offer models that allow them to have both cultural and financial success, so we are a stand-alone home for the best talent. We’re starting to see the results of that even before we celebrate our first anniversary.
I look at everyone from Greg Berlanti on Prodigal Son, Emily Spivey and Oscar winners Phil Lord and Christopher Miller on Bless the Harts, Jason Katims and Annie Weisman on Almost Family, Amy Poehler on Duncanville, Tate Taylor on Filthy Rich to David Ayer on Deputy. We’re bringing in people from all sides of the creative community, including Criminal Minds creator Jeff Davis, who we signed to a direct, exclusive, broadcast-only deal to develop scripted dramas for us. We think that is an acknowledgment that they realize this is a great place to bring some very specific work and grow it here.