As Joe Earley Steps Down, Fox Says It Will Go Forward Without a COO

Departure has been in the works for most of the year

Fox Television Group is losing one of its top execs, as COO Joe Earley announced he will leave the company at the end of the year.

While such a big departure might seem to be ratings-related—Fox has tumbled to No. 4 among 18- to 49-year-olds, despite Empire, the biggest new hit in a decade—the network said Earley's exit has been in the works for much of the year. In July, the company hired Angela Courtin, former CMO for Relativity Media, as evp and CMO, to help lay the groundwork for Earley's departure.

The company said it will not look to fill Earley's position; his direct reports will now report to Dana Walden and Gary Newman, chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television Group.

Earley worked at Fox for 21 years, staring as a publicist in 1994. In August 2014, he was named COO of Fox Television Group, where he oversaw all marketing and communications, digital, research, talent relations, scheduling and audience strategy at the network.

"All of this new opportunity, however, as rewarding as it is, has led me further and further from the creative process, which is really where my heart wants to be," said Earley in a statement. "So, while I will miss my extended Fox family terribly, it is time for me to pursue the proverbial 'next chapter.' As a former publicist, I thought I would never use that phrase, but it turns out that sometimes it's true."

Added Newman and Walden in a statement, "We have been discussing his desire to get closer to the creative process for a while now, and although we would love for him to stay at Fox for another 21 years, we understand and fully support his plans to take on new challenges."