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Fox is looking more like a real network these days, but last week's deal is also a major boon to Ronald Perelman's global media empire.

Fox's $500 million investment in the Revlon owner's New World Communications Group-in exchange for unprecedented affiliation switches at up to 12 stations-is the latest step in Mr. Perelman's ambitious plan to build a vertically integrated media company.

Mr. Perelman's MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings has methodically moved the former film studio into TV production while adding stakes in TV stations, a syndicator and an infomercial company.

Last year, it promised to spend $1 billion in a grand plan to produce, distribute and air programs, and the Fox deal represents a key step in reaching that goal.

Not only can New World Television, Genesis Entertainment and the SCI Television Stations units develop, syndicate and run programs, respectively, but the growing Fox network provides a national platform to roll out successful projects after testing on New World and Fox stations.

"The infusion of $500 million makes New World a programmer," said Greg Renker, president of Guthy-Renker Corp., the Palm Desert, Calif., infomercial company in which Mr. Perelman bought a 37% stake last year.

Mr. Renker said among New World's plans is the development of two home-shopping programs, using Guthy-Renker's expertise, that will benefit from potential exposure on Fox, which has lagged the Big 3 networks in testing transactional TV.

Mr. Perelman took control of New World in the mid-1980s but sold most of its production assets in 1991 to Sony Pictures Entertainment, which used them to revive its Tri-Star Television unit.

Since then, he has plotted an aggressive foray into TV and other projects, buying stakes in Marvel Entertainment Group, Genesis and Guthy-Renker as well as the assets of Reeves Entertainment, a producer whose projects include the "Homicide: Life on the Street" series.

Mr. Perelman has also rapidly acquired station groups, first taking stakes in bankrupt SCI Television, which owns major market network affiliates in Detroit, Cleveland; Atlanta; Tampa, Fla.; and Milwaukee, all now switching to Fox.

Earlier this month, New World agreed to acquire four more stations from Great American Communications Corp., and last week came the announcement of an option to acquire debt and equity in Argyle Television Holding, which owns four outlets.

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