Fox Plans Move Into Late-Night--Again

PASADENA, CALIF.--Fox Entertainment is still planning a move into the late-night arena--the place where the network started in the late 1980s--but it will take a measured approach.

That seems to be good news, because scores of late-night personalities have failed in the late 80s and early 90s--Joan Rivers, Chevy Chase, Pat Sajak, Whoopi Goldberg, Dennis Miller--just to name a few.

"There are a lot of cadavers in late night," Peter Liguori, president of entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Co., told the Television Critics Association in Pasadena on Tuesday.

"Once we find someone we want to do a show with, or find a show we want to put in late night, [we'll] launch it in a more measured fashion--maybe in a protected time period, late night Saturday night or Friday night," he added. "It is highly unlikely that we will suddenly come out with a big announcement."

Fox did hire Todd Yasui in December as senior VP of late-night programming. Yasui has several years of executive producing experience at "The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn." Fox launched its network in the late 80s with a Joan Rivers late-night show.

The word "measured" also came up for Liguori in questioning related to the rush of on-demand video deals that many other networks have put together recently.

"It's the quintessential marathon--not a sprint," he said, adding that there are too many unproven business models floating around right now. "Our strategy is a more measured approach. Being a counter-puncher is perhaps not a bad idea right now."

Liguori also was quizzed over TV critics' favorite TV show and Emmy-winner, "Arrested Development." "It is highly unlikely that the show will come back," he said. Despite all efforts, Fox has been unable to find an audience for the show.

Press reports have said the show could move elsewhere--for example, to FX, the network Liguori worked at before ascending to the top programming spot at Fox. Another consideration could be a move to Showtime. But Liguori did not have specific details concerning any possible move.

He did say that a basic cable deal might be difficult to pull off--given the already tough financial picture the show has on Fox. "'Arrested Development' is an expensive show to produce," he said. Fox announced that two of its long-running comedies will be finished at the end of this year: "That '70s Show" will air its 200th and final episode Thursday, May 18, and "Malcolm in the Middle" will close its seventh and final season Sunday, May 14. The network is also deciding whether to bring back "King of the Hill," which would return January 2007.

Liguori said its move to start shows early in August--getting the jump on the baseball playoffs it airs in October, which perennially disrupt Fox's programming schedule--has paid off.

Viewers have flocked to "Prison Break" during its initial seven-episode run. Later, Fox ran "Prison Break" promos in the baseball games that helped maintain viewer interest: The show earned high ratings when it came back in November.

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