New FX Programmer Eyes More Originals

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Kevin Reilly joined FX as president of entertainment last week, tasked with pumping up the amount of original series on the young adult-oriented general-entertainment network.

With that in mind, Reilly said, he intends to develop "distinctive" programming for the primetime/late-night span from 10 p.m. to midnight.

FX Networks president Peter Liguori added that Reilly's objective is to find "programming with a distinctive point of view, something that wouldn't necessarily appear on the broadcast networks."

FX's 18-to-49 target viewers are "not attracted to the tried-and-true formats of network programming," he added.

Reilly, 37, brings an impressive resume to the job. He held NBC Entertainment executive posts from 1988 through 1994, including vice president of drama development.

He joins FX from Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, where he was president of the Brad Grey Television production arm. There, he helped to develop the pilot for Home Box Office's The Sopranos and oversaw NBC sitcoms Just Shoot Me and NewsRadio and The WB Television Network's The Steve Harvey Show.

At NBC, he developed pilots for ER, Homicide: Life on the Streets and the first live-action Saturday-morning sitcom, Saved By the Bell, as well as the first season of long-running hit series Law & Order.

"I don't necessarily think conceptually that those shows would work for FX," Reilly said, although he would like to aim for that kind of quality.

Although he's looking for "a quality not found on basic cable," Reilly does not expect to have a a production budget as high as on those TV series. "But budget does not equal quality," he added.

According to industry sources, FX's programming budget should top $150 million this year and grow to an estimated $170 million in 2001. Given the new emphasis on fresh fare, originals may account for about one-half of those yearly outlays, with off-net reruns taking the rest, they said.

"The ideal goal is 10 hours per week," Liguori said. "That's aggressive, but possible." FX now produces seven-and-a-half hours of original fare weekly, including the hit Son of the Beach, FX's first scripted sitcom, co-produced by shock jock Howard Stern.

FX is also geared up for more original movies-four per year-to follow its recent ratings hit, Deliberate Intent.

Reilly ticked off other projects in the pipeline: The Site and Glimpse of Hell. The former, which he did not describe in detail, "has series potential," while the latter is a fact-based drama about an explosion that killed naval officers aboard the USS Iowa. Initially blamed on a gay love affair gone awry, that battleship explosion was actually caused by archaic turret equipment, he said.

There are no specials on his plate now, but Reilly said he would "absolutely be interested in specials and stunts."

Reilly is also eyeing new media. This would entail using the Internet to build awareness of series when they are not on the air, much as is done with The Sopranos, he explained.

On its Web site, FX uses such words as "bold, edgy, unique, distinctive, provocative and controversial" to describe its various series and movie offerings.

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