"It's a little awkward," says Reilly, the former president of NBC Entertainment, hired last month by Fox. "I'm going to be pretty low impact [right now]. It's not like I'm saying, 'everyone back up. I'm here to fix things.'"
Reilly came to the network--after his surprisingly quick exit at NBC, and weeks after NBC's upfront prime-time programming presentation--to work with his old FX network pal Peter Liguori, now chairman of Fox Entertainment.
"It's an entrepreneurial company," says Reilly. "It doesn't rest on its laurels. It's a winning network, and a happy network."
Given that Fox's schedule in the fall is set, Reilly admits there will be little to do initially. Still, Liguori says it will be up to Reilly to solve its problematic areas: "We could do better in the fourth quarter."
Fox has consistently had problems in the fall--with ratings tumbling for its premiere shows. Preemptions from post-season baseball have been a problem.
But this year Fox has trimmed the 26 preemptions due to the baseball playoffs to 14 preemptions--hopefully giving the fall shows a chance to succeed.
For Fox's big heavyweight show "American Idol" and its viewership slippage, Liguori says the drop was minimal. And with regard to ratings with DVR playback, he notes, "we were down 1% overall and down 3% in 18-49. The show is very strong, very much alive. 'Idol' reboots every year. You are always one water-cooler contestant from a big [year]. To viewers there is [anticipation of] an 'Idol season.'
Fox's aim is to launch more shows in "Idol" draft. Liguori says "Idol" brings in a heavy circulation of female viewers. So launching new shows--"Canterbury's Law," starring Julianna Margulies and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles"--in January, when "Idol" starts up, makes sense.
Reilly's quick move to Fox--after presenting NBC's prime-time schedule in May--won't give him any long-time advantage of the Peacock network's inside plans.
"It is cool [that I know NBC's plans], but it'll only be that way for a couple months," he says. "I prefer to have an immediate knowledge of ABC's schedule."
Liguori chimed in quickly: "Our sights are not set on the number four network. Our sights are set on the number one network. At Fox we have our own game plan."
When asked what he would change at Fox, Reilly responded: "Fox certainly has had the clear brand--that is the great thing about Fox. He added that he would like to do "a few more shows for the core brand," as well as others outside the brand.
"I look to sports [for an analogy]," he says. "The NFL has very little overlap with the rest of TV. But that kind of circulation is still healthy for the network."