Call it a case of ‘from rumor to reality.’ One of the tidbits being bandied about during MIPCOM last week involved an overall re-branding of the Fox Reality Channel. And now, via a rather tiny press statement from Fox Cable Networks, the truth, or at least a bit of it, emerges.
‘With the changing cable landscape we’ve made a strategic decision to shift some resources and refocus on emerging channels,’ reads the statement. ‘However, Fox Reality Channel will remain on our line-up for at least the next several months.’
FRC president David Lyle (pictured) told staffers yesterday that the channel, as it exists now, is expected to close on March 31, 2010. Just over two dozen positions may be affected. As its name suggests, the channel, launched in 2005 and carried in 50 million homes, specialized in both original reality programming, such as Solitary, The Academy, American Idol Extra and the Really Awards, and library series including The Amazing Race.
Contacted in Los Angeles, Lyle told realscreen that the channel had been the subject of a thorough review, which culminated in the decision to completely overhaul the brand.
‘As I said in some emails to friends about this, whenever you open the door to change you can never really be sure who or what is coming through it,’ he said. ‘We knew from the beginning of the year that we needed to stand for something else aside from general reality. With the explosion of reality or unscripted entertainment across all of cable, you couldn’t afford to be a generalist anymore. We did a large segmentation study to see if we were going to focus by ‘creep,’ or take one element and focus on that, and we even looked at going after a niche product or passion and making it our own.’
Indeed, discussion revolving around what FRC would evolve into has focused on branded entertainment, and Lyle confirmed that a brand will play a central role in the channel and its programming. ‘It’s a channel that’s based on a brand that is known,’ he said. More information is expected to emerge soon. UPDATE: Fox Cable Networks will be launching a Nat Geo spin-off, Nat Geo Wild, in spring 2010, See story here.
Lyle commended the channel’s open work environment and flat management structure, and stressed that he is very proud of FRC’s legacy, especially given the quick nature of its 2005 launch. ‘Fox Reality Channel has been immensely successful,’ he said. ‘It was one of the four fastest growing channels in U.S. cable history, and was in profit within 12 months of launch. It exceeded its business plan by five or six years… It’s been a very solid performer. I’d say 85% of the people here were among the people who helped launch it four a half years ago. And behind the scenes we took the channel from idea to an on-air entity in four months.’
As for where Lyle will go from here, he is talking with Fox top brass about remaining there, but is also keeping his eyes open for new possibilities. As a board member of the Format Recognition and Protection Association (FRAPA) and with an extensive background in unscripted production, might a return to the production fold be in the cards?
‘There’s an interesting project [at Fox] that I’m talking to people about, and I’m also getting phone calls,’ he said. ‘I’ve been a buyer and a seller at various times of my life, but certainly I’ve enjoyed my time at Fox so I’m more than happy to see if we can define this opportunity so that it’s an exciting path to take.’