NEW YORK — Fox is planning to start the Fox Reality Channel early next year, perhaps moving to the front of the suddenly crowded sweepstakes of networks looking to capitalize on the format.
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The new network will air a mix of original series and reruns of series like “Joe Millionaire” and “Temptation Island.”
Fox joins Reality Central, which is set to begin later this year, and Reality TV, which airs only on the Dish Network, in the competition to be the go-to place for fans of the popular genre.
With owner News Corp.’s one-third stake in Direct TV, a collection of studios and a broadcast network that has long embraced the genre, the Fox Reality Channel is well-positioned for the fight.
“It was never so much a question of whether we might take this next step and launch a dedicated reality channel,” said Anthony Vinciquerra, Fox Networks Group president. “It was only a matter of when.”
Meanwhile, the operators of Reality Central said Fox had essentially taken their idea and ran with it.
“When you get a validation from one of the big media conglomerates, it’s flattering,” said Larry Namer, head of Reality Central and a founder of the E! Entertainment network.
Vinciquerra laughed when told of Namer’s comment. He said the Fox Reality Channel has been in the works for more than two years.
Reality Central has been aggressively trying to promote itself as a destination for fans of the genre. Besides reality show reruns and some original shows, it will keep viewers up-to-date with what’s going on across all the networks.
The Fox Reality Channel, Namer said, is essentially an excuse for the Fox companies to burn off their programming.
But Vinciquerra said that while Fox-related companies will provide a bulk of the new network’s programming, it won’t exclusively be Fox. The Fox Reality Channel will eventually distinguish itself with more original programming than a competitor is likely to muster.
The Fox Reality Channel hasn’t named a chief executive or programmer yet, so there are few details on what new shows it will start.
The Fox networks have had a handful of successful start-ups over the past few years, including the National Geographic Channel, the Speed Channel for motorsports and Fuel, an outlet for extreme sports.
Reality TV, meanwhile, concentrates less on manufactured games than tapes of police chases, fire rescues and the like.
Another network changed its name from the Game Show Network to GSN earlier this year, in an attempt to start showing more reality fare and position itself as a site for fans of the shows.
The Fox Reality Channel will concentrate on the competitive games and romantic reality shows.
“This is not just a passing fad for Fox,” said Fox Networks spokesman Tom Tyre. “They’ve been doing this for a while.”
Fox Networks Group Tuesday said it would launch a reality television cable network early next year, pushing back at rivals who have accused Fox Broadcasting Co. of stealing their ideas.
The Fox Reality Channel will debut in the first three months of 2005 with new and repeat presentations from Fox, known for shows like “American Idol” and “The Simple Life,” as well as outtakes and contestant interviews, foreign adaptations of popular concepts and shows from other production companies.
The network also will back up programs on the main Fox broadcast channel with extra material, it said.
The scrappy Fox broadcast network has yet to comment on criticism from rivals that it has stolen their ideas for new reality shows, mounting a boxing show after NBC decided to do so and debuting “Trading Spouses,” a show about parents from different families switching places, ahead of “Wife Swap” on ABC, which first came up with the idea.
There are already two other reality cable channels, “Reality Central” and “Reality TV.”
A Fox spokesman said it has not named an executive to head the new channel as yet.
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