Dana Walden received a baptism by fire when she and Gary Newman took over as co-chairmen and co-CEOs of Fox Television Group last summer. But after enduring a brutal fall, the network is back on trick thanks to Empire, one of the biggest new hits in decades. Walden sat down with me for this Adweek profile about her rollercoaster first year on the job. She talked to me about the good, the bad and — going to back to last fall — the ugly:
Yes. Going in, Gary and I always anticipated that this was going to be a really tough fall. We were encouraged by Gotham, encouraged by Sunday night. I felt like our job as the new leaders was to stay focused on the positive momentum and point to things that establish what we wanted to do in the future. That was a far better approach than being mired in how demoralizing the overnights can be.
And now that Empire’s ratings keep soaring (seven consecutive weeks of ratings increases and counting!), she says the show’s success has restored her faith that mass hits are still possible:
Yes. I’ve had so many conversations with my peers at other networks in broadcast and cable, and over and over again the sentiment is, this is just great for the business. It has sent a wave of enthusiasm and optimism through our business that you can create a scripted show, something that’s not a live event, and you can still eventize it in a way that a lot of people are going to make it appointment watching.
Walden also talked about juggling her network and studio hats, Empire’s second season order, standing by Backstrom, taking a big swing with The Last Man on Earth and how Empire has affected her thinking about what shows to pick up next season.