In the end, rumors of John Matoian’s downfall were not greatly exaggerated. On Sept. 6 the Fox Entertainment Group chief, whose job security had been a hot topic, quit after turning down a three-year extension. It appeared his role was shrinking after Fox Sports’ David Hill was promoted to Fox Television president and CEO in July. ”It just wasn’t for me to work under a different structure,” says Matoian, who was replaced by Twentieth Century Fox Television head Peter Roth.
The departure leaves the direction of the fourth network uncertain. ”They’re at a crossroads,” says Garth Ancier, programming chief at The WB and Fox’s former entertainment head. A decade after its initial success as a purveyor of low-brow fare (Married… With Children), Fox seems unable to decide whether it wants to sit at the grown-up table with the Big Three. Matoian, charged with broadening Fox’s audience, nurtured more sophisticated shows such as Party of Five and Ned and Stacey. But neither was a ratings smash. ”You can’t be all things to all people,” says Matoian. ”Somebody has to say this is what we want to be and this is how we’re going to do it.”
For now, shows like Party are safe, but it remains to be seen whether Matoian’s legacy will live on under Roth. ”I wish there had been a couple of big hits,” says Matoian, ”but with everybody else suffering huge declines, I sort of feel like it was a job well done.”