Former Fox Chief May Get Top Job at New Network : Television: Salhany’s clash with Rupert Murdoch has not hurt her image as an executive.
Lucie Salhany, who resigned as chairman of the Fox Broadcasting Co. network last month, is in discussions on becoming the head of United Paramount Network--Chris-Craft’s and Paramount’s joint venture to start a fifth TV network, industry sources said.
Salhany, who left Fox after clashing with studio Chairman Rupert Murdoch, previously worked at Paramount, helping to develop hits such as “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
Her appointment would likely calm fears that the United Paramount Network may be on shaky ground. Chris-Craft and Paramount recently renegotiated the terms of their joint venture and Paramount is experiencing delays with the production of “Star Trek: Voyager,” the showcase series intended to anchor the fifth network.
Unforeseen glitches are part and parcel of the television business, but those at the United Paramount Network are magnified because the partners are in a high-stakes race with Warner Bros., which is launching its own fifth network. Both networks want to begin broadcasting two nights of programming early next year.
Although Salhany’s brief tenure at Fox was marred by the high-profile failure of “The Chevy Case Show,” she nonetheless is highly regarded by local broadcasters, who consider her programming instincts, marketing skills and salesmanship to be among the best in the industry.
A spokesman for Paramount declined to comment. A head for the network is expected to be named shortly. If Salhany takes the job at Paramount, then both competing fifth networks will be run by former heads of the Fox network. Jamie Kellner, chief executive of Warner Bros.’ WB Network, was a founder and president of Fox Broadcasting Co. As with Kellner, it is expected that Salhany would have a financial stake in the network.
Salhany, however, has also been having discussions with CBS on heading up the network’s expansion into syndication, and talking with other suitors, people close to her said.
At Paramount, Salhany ran the most profitable syndication division of any major studio, producing and distributing hits such as “Entertainment Tonight,” “Hard Copy” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” She left the studio to join Fox in 1991.
Knowledgeable sources said that Salhany has been courted by Evan Thompson, head of Chris-Craft’s TV operations, who has been taking a larger part in the venture. Kerry McCluggage, chairman of Paramount TV Group, has been overseeing the network for the studio.
Chris-Craft, which through affiliates owns eight TV stations, including KCOP-TV (Channel 13) in Los Angeles, is one of the nation’s biggest station groups. The broadcaster is seen by some as taking the lead in shaping the fifth network after Paramount’s new owner, Viacom, balked at committing itself. Chris-Craft agreed to shoulder more of the costs.
Paramount, however, will still be the main program supplier to the network, and has pledged its newest Star Trek sequel, “Voyager,” to the venture. The three previous Star Trek series as well as the six theatrical features have made hundreds of millions in profits for Paramount and are widely considered the studio’s most valuable “franchise.”
The “Voyager” sequel has been created by veteran “Star Trek” producers Rick Berman, Jeri Taylor and Michael Piller. In recent weeks, however, the show has suffered casting setbacks and missed two production start dates.
Moreover, the leading role, originally written for a woman, may be changed to a male character. The producers could not come up with an actress who was satisfactory to both them and the studio.
An executive with the show said that six of the nine roles have been cast and that enough “padding” has been built into production schedule so that the show can still meet its January air date. “We have another week or two to go before we get into trouble,” the executive said. “We want to find the right person and someone we can all agree with.”
The producers are scheduled to see both actors and actresses read for the lead role this week.