Broadcast raided cable's talent pool again last week, with
the Fox network recruiting white-hot Comedy Central CEO Doug Herzog as its new chief of
entertainment, replacing Peter Roth.
Herzog, 39, was named Fox's president of entertainment. He
will relocate to Los Angeles from New York and assume his new post in January, after his
contract with Comedy Central expires.
"It was too good of an opportunity to let pass,"
said Herzog, who remains undaunted by his lack of experience with scripted shows -- Fox's
bread and butter -- and by the nonexistent job security of "Big Four"
"I'm going out there to win," Herzog said.
"I'm going out there to succeed I bring my sensibility, my gut and my point of
Herzog met with Comedy Central staff last Wednesday, and
one source at the network reported that he cried because he was overcome with emotion. The
executives that Herzog reports to -- Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Home Box Office, and Tom Freston,
CEO of MTV Networks -- also attended the meeting.
Comedy Central has been on a ratings roll for the past
year, ever since it debuted the edgy animated series South Park under Herzog's
watch. After earning a reputation as a savvy programming at MTV: Music Television, Herzog
joined Comedy in July 1995, shepherding its growth to 55 million subscribers from 35
million and growing its ratings steadily for the past two years.
Comedy Central's owners, Time Warner Inc. and Viacom Inc.,
have not named a successor yet. But Larry Divney, executive vice president of ad sales, is
considered the strongest internal candidate, according to some network executives.
In the past, broadcast-network officials were flowing into
cable. But now, the broadcasters, faced with eroding audiences, are looking for
programmers who can think out of the box to attract viewers, so they're raiding cable
executives. Last month, Scott Sassa, a former top executive at Turner Entertainment
Networks, joined NBC as president of NBC Entertainment.
"A few years ago, it was big news when Rod Perth left
CBS to go to USA Network [as president of entertainment]," said Ray Solley, the
William Morris agent who sold South Park to Comedy. "Now, the reverse is
happening: The broadcast networks are more and more in need of breakout hits and
demographically savvy branding, and they're reaching out to cable executives."
Herzog called the fact that broadcast is hiring cable
executives "a great feather in cable's hat."
Roth -- a veteran hit-maker who has failed to produce a
breakout show for Fox this season -- resigned last week.