Fox taps AMC's Charlie Collier to lead its broadcast business

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Charlie Collier.
Charlie Collier. Credit: AMC Networks

The former ad sales executive who brought you "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad" is leaving AMC to spearhead the revamped Fox broadcast network.

In a deal that Fox announced late Friday evening, longtime AMC president and GM Charlie Collier has been named CEO of entertainment at Fox, where he'll oversee the network and lead its entertainment-programming development across all live, scripted and non-scripted content. Fox Sports president, COO and executive producer Eric Shanks will continue to command the network's sports business, a portfolio that includes live coverage of NFL and Major League Baseball games as well as the quadrennial FIFA World Cup tournament.

"Charlie is a singular talent, combining creative success with operational expertise to lead the AMC network with some of television's most memorable programming," said Fox chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch in a statement. "Charlie's skills and experience will help Fox continue to transform the broadcast television business."

Collier officially will begin his Fox tenure on Nov. 1. It is believed that the new hire will remain stationed in New York—he lives in Darien, Conn., with his wife and four children—traveling to Fox's Los Angeles base as needed.

Fox TV Group co-chairman and CEO Gary Newman, who was said to have been negotiating for the top job at the spun-off network, is leaving Fox as soon as the $71.3 billion Disney deal closes. Newman's executive partner, co-chair/CEO Dana Walden, with whom he ran the Fox studio business since 1999 (and the network itself as of 2014), is joining Disney in a yet-to-be-determined role.

Newman, who characterizes Collier as a "longtime friend and colleague," says he takes comfort in knowing that he'll be leaving Fox "in capable hands."

The 49-year-old Collier has served as the top banana at AMC for the better part of a decade. During that time he was instrumental in transforming AMC from a somewhat sleepy mid-tier channel known largely for airing theatricals such as "Jaws IV: The Revenge" to one of ad-supported TV's few destinations for stellar scripted series. While "Mad Men" was already in development before Collier came aboard as GM back in September 2006—the pilot began shooting on April 20 of that same year—every show going forward has carried his imprimatur.

Shortly after setting up shop at AMC, Collier jumped at the chance to develop Vince Gilligan's "Breaking Bad" script, and that success was followed in short order by the record-smashing hit "The Walking Dead."

If many TV insiders were shocked by Collier's ascension to the ranks of programming mastermind—he started his career as an ad sales executive, working his way up to chief negotiator and president of sales at Court TV (now truTV)—his ambitions would lead him far beyond talk of ROI and audience measurement. In fact, Collier was so determined to land a high-ranking gig on the glamour side of the TV business that he regularly pored over pilot scripts and William Goldman's "Adventures in the Screen Trade" while he was earning an MBA at Columbia University.

"I can't imagine a more exciting next step than this new role at Fox, which combines the power and reach of a broadcast division, some of the best live assets on the planet from which to build entertainment audiences and fan engagement, and a proven leadership team with a 'make new rules' start-up mentality," Collier said, before going on to note how proud he is of his work at AMC.

A successor to Collier has not been named, although AMC has plenty of in-house talent from which to choose. Among the more likely candidates are former Fox entertainment president David Madden, who last fall took on the role of president of original programming at AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios, and BBC America president and GM Sarah Barnett.

In a sense, Collier's decision to jump from his ad-supported cable channel to one of the Big Four broadcast TV networks is a reversal of a longstanding trend that began when CBS ad sales capo Joe Abruzzese left the Tiffany Network for the top sales job at Discovery back in 2002. As cable's fortunes began to rise—a progression made possible by the development of zeitgeist-defining original series at ad-supported outlets including FX, AMC and TNT—the allure of aligning oneself with the most critically acclaimed shows on the dial made Abruzzese's leap of faith a much more common occurrence.

Case in point: Shortly after Kevin Reilly left Fox in the summer of 2014, he became the programming chief at Turner Entertainment Networks.

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