Maureen Smith, a 14-year veteran of Fox Broadcasting, was named president of Fox Family Channel and Fox Kid Network by Haim Saban, chairman and CEO of Fox Family Worldwide. Smith, who got the nod in September, replaces Rich Cronin, who left the office in May.
Part of Smith’s new programming strategy is to bring adults to the family channel. ‘We want a channel that serves all members of the family,’ says Smith. ‘Our main strategy is to go with kids and tweens by day, and with adult-targeted, family-friendly programming at night, with a real mainstream sensibility. We’re going in prime time for 35- to 49-year-old adults and, you know what, it doesn’t matter if they are parents or not. We’re gonna put on shows that are entertaining to adults, but the added benefit is your kids can watch it with you and you won’t have the cringe factor you may on other channels.’
Fox Family faces formidable competition from the big three (Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and The Disney Channel), but Smith looks forward to taking them on.
‘The three channels you’ve named are all kids channels, and that’s part of the challenge that I face. Over the last four months, I’ve been working to redefine `family’ and show that just because it’s called `family programming’ doesn’t mean it’s just for kids.’
‘We’ve redesigned the whole look of the channel. More than just a new logo on the screen, but a whole design package, along with our new prime time, which clearly shows quality programming for adults with Early Edition, Providence and Freaks & Geeks.’
‘A lot of adults in the past have perceived us as a kids channel,’ says Smith. ‘Kids were an instant winner for us on Fox Family, and that was quite an accomplishment considering there were no kids watching the old Family Channel. A lot of it has to do with [executive VP of programming and development] Joel Andryc’s leadership and vision for the kids daypart to serve the tween audience, which wasn’t being served three years ago when we started the channel.’
To help Smith attain her goals, her first appointment was promoting Tom Halleen to senior VP of prime-time programming and development. Halleen, who joined the original Family Channel in 1990, was most recently Fox Family VP of original movies, acquisitions and scheduling, responsible for corralling Freaks & Geeks, Providence and 7th Heaven to Fox Family prime time. The Wonder Years is also set to join the Fox fold in fall 2001.
Adult animation, one-hour dramas (The Fearing Mind) and reality series are part of the new direction for Fox Family. ‘We are now developing original programming for prime time and adults 35 to 49,’ says Smith. ‘We’re working to deliver unique, innovative concepts, and I think we have those.’ Stay tuned.