Kevin Reilly, the chairman of the Fox television network, has resigned from that position, effective at the end of June, as reported by Vulture’s Joe Adalian. The shake-up comes after a fairly disastrous spring for the network, which saw its live plus same-day ratings take significant tumbles, even for longtime stalwarts like American Idol. It’s the first major change in network executives since Bob Greenblatt took over the top job at NBC in 2011. Reilly had been at the head of Fox since 2007, and before that, he was the head of NBC for a brief window of time that brought viewers such shows as Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock. His time at Fox was marked by a willingness to continue swinging for the fences with such off-the-wall concepts as Glee, Sleepy Hollow, and Dollhouse but also an acknowledgement that TV needs big, dependable hits to build off of. When The X Factor failed to develop into that, even as Idol’s ratings continued to fade, that was likely Reilly’s fate sealed in slow motion.
For better or worse, Reilly’s tenure as network president will now be inextricably tied to his plan to get rid of pilot season launched earlier this year. Whether Fox will stick with this plan or not remains to be seen, but it was the biggest initiative launched by a guy fond of thinking big about the future of television. It’s also unlikely that this is why he left the network (or was pushed out of it), though, as Adalian notes, Reilly did a round of press for the idea of ending pilot season last month that would normally suggest a man who was going to be in his job at least a little while longer, not someone who was planning to resign a few weeks after upfronts. (Also of note in Adalian’s article: Reilly actually wanted to renew Almost Human and Enlisted, but his boss, Peter Rice, pulled the plug on both initiatives, which may speak to a deeper tension between the two.) Whoever is chosen as Reilly’s successor will have big shoes to fill, but also the whole problem of how to deal with a plan that Reilly was obviously just shepherding through its initial stages, to say nothing of, y’know, the collapse of network television. It’ll be interesting to see who lands in the job. Can we suggest John Landgraf? (C’mon. You know it’s going to be John Landgraf, unless he just doesn’t want it.)