David Lyle, previously president of entertainment for FremantleMedia North America, will head fledgling Fox Reality Channel, which is set to bow early in the second quarter of 2005.
He will report to Fox Networks Group CEO Tony Vinciquerra.
Lyle will oversee all programming, production, marketing and business operations for the service, which expects to debut in at least 17 million homes via pacts with Cox Communications Inc., EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network and News Corp.-controlled DirecTV Inc.
Fox Reality will enter what could become a crowded genre. Reality TV launched last December on Dish, while Reality 24/7, BlueHighways TV and The America Channel are all looking to grab their own slices of the reality pie.
Lyle -- whose resume also includes stops at Pearson Television and Australia’s Nine Network -- has been working on developing and acquiring unscripted fare for more than 25 years. During his days at FremantleMedia, he led the team that launched American Idol, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s biggest hit.
While the singing-competition hit won’t be part of Fox Reality’s roster, the service will showcase a mixture of classic reality shows, international series not yet seen in the United States and some original fare.
Initially, original programming is more likely to take the shape of specials or short-strand series, rather than multiepisodic shows.
Lyle said Fox Reality would also pursue time-shifted shows from Fox. “Some contemporary show will wind up with us within a very short time,” he added. A Fox spokesman noted that time-shifting is subject to agreements with affiliates.
He expects to spruce up existing reality series by bringing back contestants for a “sort of blow-by-blow description” about what they were thinking as activities and developments on the shows unfolded. Lyle noted that these shows could also be “made more exciting through unseen footage. There’s a lot of it that was cut for time or content constraints from the networks. We’ll be slightly freer.”
He said Fox Reality would largely target the group most coveted by advertisers. “The network will really appeal to fans of this genre, those who want to peer, get behind reality TV. We’ll serve those people and then expand that core base, which is an attractive one from age and demographic standpoints, largely 18-49. There will be some younger and older viewers, depending on show.”
He added, “We’re also going to find interesting ways to get sponsors involved.”
The service will also bow with a companion Web site. “I think there are a lot of things that we can do in the interactive space. People interested in this genre are not just passers-by. They want to drill down and immerse themselves,” he said.
In conclusion, Lyle expects the network to have a wide appeal: “Reality is repeatable and the market is growing. For every show that doesn’t work in primetime, there are those that do and a whole lot of others spread across different dayparts. This network will really be the best that reality TV has to offer.”