Tv’s Futurist

Special to The Times

IT’S LIKELY there are few people thinking as much about the future of television as Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment at Fox.

While previously in the same position at NBC, Reilly was involved in introducing what are now some of the network’s signature shows, including “The Office” and “Heroes.”

Coming up for Fox, besides working for the continued success of “American Idol,” “24” and “House,” there will be the highly touted new J.J. Abrams show “Fringe.” Following an appearance at the most recent Television Critics Assn. press tour, Variety called Reilly “a guy who gets it.”


Is this a scary time to be working in television or an exciting time?

I do think it’s a really vibrant time. It’s a time where the strong and creative can thrive and the faint of heart could find themselves getting deeper in a hole. Fortunately at Fox, we’re in a good place and can continue to invest in network television and try different things. The larger landscape, the digital landscape, the different ways people are consuming media, that all just makes for interesting challenges.

If “American Idol” proves anything, it’s that there are still people who watch TV in very large numbers. Is the challenge then how to corral that audience to other shows?

It depends whether you want to look at it as glass half-full, glass half-empty. First of all, people are watching a ton of television all over. It becomes a little more fragmented between broadcast and cable, further fragments when you factor in DVRs, further fragments when you factor in streaming or downloading or on-demand services. All these add up to a lot of consumption of our products. In terms of live, Nielsen-rated broadcast viewing, we forget that even failed shows attract 6 million to 8 million viewers. The real challenge is going to be in terms of measuring and monetizing . . . and remaining creatively vibrant.

This year on “Idol” there seemed to be an emphasis on downloading the performances after the show.

Here’s the most vibrant thing about this time from an entertainment perspective and a cultural perspective: People’s habits are beginning to move, consumption habits are just morphing on a regular basis. Clearly, you have a very young end of the spectrum who are now just doing this as part of the way they’ve been raised, they don’t know anything different. But you also have older segments of the audience who are watching DVD marathons, who are downloading shows, using our websites, who are kind of all over the dial. There’s many, many tentacles to it.

I will not be surprised to see lots of iterations of that. I think you’re going to find more novel alliances to create awareness for shows, that may then keep a modestly rated show alive longer or take a modestly rated show to a whole new level.