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Matoian FOX MOVES BACK FROM EDGE NEW PROGRAMMER COMES WITH MAINSTREAM CREDENTIALS

By Published on .

Fox last week moved a step closer to mainstream America, replacing its top programmer with a former CBS executive whose mandate is to tap a broader, less youthful audience.

John Matoian was named to replace Sandy Grushow, 34, as Fox Entertainment Group president. Mr. Grushow left the company.

Mr. Matoian, recruited last spring to head Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.'s family film division, previously worked seven years at CBS, most recently developing mass-audience TV movies.

Mr. Grushow nurtured Fox's identity by appealing to young urban (and urbane) audiences.

"They will try to expand the audience base, because they're limited in terms of their ratings potential and the advertising they've been able to bring in," said Arnie Semsky, exec VP-media and programming services at BBDO Worldwide, New York.

But some questioned the wisdom of Fox's new strategy.

"Fox's brand was distinguished by that edgy kind of programming," said a rival network executive. "The more they move away from that to be like a mainstream network, the more they lose that edge."

"When you try to go too broad, you're going to lose your core audience," said Julie Friedlander, senior VP and director of national broadcast negotiations at Ogilvy & Mather.

The change was prompted in part to better capitalize on Fox's huge NFL investment, which so far hasn't yielded ratings success for the Sunday prime-time programming slate. And last week, Fox shelved two new young-skewing series, "Wild Oats" and "Fortune Hunter."

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