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Fox Television Studios tries new model for network TV

November 14, 2009 |  7:50 am

EMILIANO

When Emiliano Calemzuk was tapped by Peter Chernin to take over News Corp.'s Fox Television Studios, the media giant's boutique production house, the first thing he did was move its offices off the Fox lot in Century City and away from all the glitz and glamor to a bland building next to an old gas station on Santa Monica Blvd.

"I wanted to get out of the 'lot mentality,' said Calemzuk, referring to the fancy office and fresh flowers approach to entertainment. "We're here to do things differently."

By differently, he means cheaply. After cutting the staff of Fox Television Studios by almost half, he pulled the plug  on shows he didn't think would yield long-term success, such as the TNT drama "Saving Grace."

Fox Television Studios has had a good run as of late producing for cable, with the USA Network hits "Burn Notice" and "White Collar" to its credit. Both are done faster and cheaper than a show would cost on broadcast TV.

Now Calemzuk wants to reinvent producing for broadcast TV. Rather than make an expensive pilot for a network and hope it orders the show, he is partnering with international broadcasters for the bulk of production money and trying to get the networks to commit to 13 episodes right from the start. That way, he skips the pricey pilot competition and the networks don't pay as much because much of the money has been supplied abroad.

So far his track record is mixed. While he was able to get a couple of shows on the networks over the summer, they didn't stick around after 13 episodes. One problem was since the networks had little invested creatively in the shows, they didn't feel as strong a need to market and promote them.

Now Calemzuk is trying his foreign-first approach again but getting his U.S. partners more invested as well. If he is successful, other producers and networks will take note. If he's not, he says he still hasn't lost the money that goes down the drain under the traditional approach to making series.

For more on Fox Television Studios and Calemzuk, please see today's story in the Los Angeles Times.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Fox Television Studios President Emiliano Calemzuk on the set of the NBC drama "Persons Unknown." Credit: Carlos Somonte.

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