In a major restructuring of News Corp.’s media and entertainment juggernaut, Peter Rice has been elevated to chairman and CEO of the Fox Networks Group. The promotion puts Rice at the helm of the broadcast unit, the cable networks FX and National Geographic Channel and Fox Sports.
In light of Rice’s new position, longtime Fox Sports chief David Hill will transition to a more expansive role as a senior vp of News Corp. Hill, who has served as chairman and CEO of Fox Sports since 1999, will develop programming and digital initiatives across the media conglomerate’s international operations.
Hill is also expected to oversee sports rights acquisitions in emerging markets (Latin America, Asia, etc.).
“After 30 years spent building our sports businesses into global leaders, I’ve been eager to dive into a broader role that enables me to hunt down untapped programming, investment and digital opportunities all over the world,” Hill said, by way of announcing his new post. “I am immensely proud of the work we’ve done to revolutionize the television business…and I leave Fox Sports in an amazing position, with a great team in place led by [Fox Sports Media Group co-presidents] Randy [Freer] and Eric [Shanks].”
The architect of Fox’s adventurous brand of sports broadcasting, Hill in his first year at the network poached rival talents (Pat Summerall, John Madden) and infused the network’s pre-game shows with an irreverence that would become a hallmark of all Fox Sports presentations. Introduced at the start of the 1994 NFL season—the first year of Fox’s ongoing association with the league—the backfield of Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson has become the very embodiment of the Fox Sports philosophy.
An adherent to the sports-as-theater philosophy, Hill also made Fox broadcasts a more friendly destination for casual viewers. Before Fox introduced the FoxBox, the permanent (and now ubiquitous) score/game clock graphic in the upper corner of the TV screen, the first thing a fan would say upon entering a room where a game was in progress was, “Who’s winning?” Hill also adopted the neon-yellow virtual first down marker, the FoxTrax glowing hockey puck, and in 2010, took the wraps off a 3D presentation of the MLB All-Star Game.
“David has proven himself to be one of the true visionaries in sports and entertainment…during the last three decades, and most recently has helped energize our National Geographic Channels,” News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey said in a statement. “As we continue to grow our content brands across the world, David’s unique leadership and experience will be invaluable.”
Now one of the most powerful executives at News Corp., Rice previously served as chairman of entertainment for Fox Networks Group. Under the new structure, Freer and Shanks, who previously reported to Hill, will report directly to Rice. By the same token, David Haslingden, president and COO of FNG; and Mike Hopkins, president of distribution for FNG—both of whom previously reported to News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey—will now report to Rice.
Two direct reports will go unchanged, as Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company, and John Landgraf, president and general manager of FX, will continue to report to Rice.
Before Rice joined the FNG team in 2010, he was president of the Fox Searchlight unit. Among the films that were released during Rice’s tenure are: One Hour Photo, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, Sideways, Juno, Bend it Like Beckham and Little Miss Sunshine.
“I am honored to work closely with the excellent executive team at FNG to lead these businesses into their next phase and am grateful to Rupert [Murdoch] and Chase for this amazing opportunity,” Rice said. “The talented artists, powerful brands, franchises and live events we have in place across our channels are unrivaled in the media business, and will serve as an invaluable foundation as we embark on another wave of incremental growth.”
Born in the United Kingdom in 1967, Rice began his career as an intern at Fox Filmed Entertainment.
At roughly the same time News Corp. announced Rice’s coronation, Reilly told attendees of Fox’s Television Critics Association executive session that Mariah Carey would be joining the cast of American Idol when it returns for its 12th cycle in January 2013.
The deal had been finalized just hours before Reilly’s TCA pitch. One of the top-selling musical artists of all time, Carey will inherit one of the vacancies created by departed Idol judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.