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Kevin Reilly, Fox entertainment chairman, is out after a rough year

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly is out after a rough year at the network, its ratings dragged down by the dramatic decline of "American Idol."

Fox said Thursday that Reilly will leave by the end of June. Reilly came from NBC in 2007 to run the network's prime-time entertainment operation, and was promoted to chairman two years ago.

The network had several strong years under Reilly, with the luxury of "American Idol" dominating the TV landscape in the winter and spring. But the show's finale last week had a startling 66 per cent fewer viewers than its season-ending episode three years ago.

Fox ranked fourth among all viewers this season, second behind NBC within the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that the network cares most about, the Nielsen company said. Its viewership in that youthful demographic was actually steady this year, but when sports is taken out of consideration — Fox aired the Super Bowl, NFC championship and a competitive World Series in prime time — the demo's rating was down 17 per cent.

Reilly will exit shortly after he announced Fox's schedule for next year, meaning his successor will essentially get a year's pass for being held accountable for the network's performance.

Reilly said he had been talking about leaving Fox for a while, "and now with a robust new slate of programming for next season and strength in the FBC (Fox Broadcasting Co.) ranks, it felt like the timing was as right as it could be."

His boss, Fox Networks Group chairman and CEO Peter Rice, will be in charge until a successor is named.

Reilly has pushed Fox toward airing fresh programming all year-round, and is a strong backer of short-run series like the recent return of "24." The most highly anticipated of 12 new series next season is "Gotham," described as a prequel to "Batman."

While at Fox, Reilly shepherded shows like "Glee," ''Sleepy Hollow" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

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