Fox Broadcasting Network The WB engineer was 77 years old

Jimmy Kellner, the charismatic and wily executive who expanded the broadcast television landscape by helping to create the Fox and WB networks in 1987 and 1995, respectively, has died. He was 77 years old.

Kellner died on Friday at his home in Montecito, California, after a battle with cancer. Hollywood Reporter to learn.

While Kellner was still atop the World Bank, in March 2001 he was given additional responsibilities for overseeing TBS, TNT, and CNN as chairman and CEO of Time Warner’s sister company, Turner Broadcasting System. But he only stayed that way for two years, before retiring and spending the remainder of his decade in Burbank.

Meanwhile, Kellner was president of the station’s ownership group ACME Communications — named after the company in the Warner Bros.’ Road Runner cartoon. — from its launch in 1997 until its liquidation in 2016. He was the rare television network executive who also had a hand in the station’s business. In fact, the first nine ACME stations were affiliated with the World Bank.

The boyish Kellner was president of Orion Entertainment Group when he was among the first people hired by Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller in February 1986 to develop a network at Fox to compete with CBS, NBC and ABC.

As founding president and chief operating officer of Fox Broadcasting Co., he set about building the affiliate network, selling programming to advertisers and establishing relationships with producers.

“One of the first tests we apply [with a show] IS: Will one of the three networks do it? “Often, if the answer is yes, we rule it out.” Tell New York times In March 1987. “There is no reason for us to exist if we are going to do what they have already done.”

Married with children Fox’s first official night in prime time began on Sunday, April 5, 1987, and The Simpsons, Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place And In living color He will arrive later. He also led the creation of the Fox Children’s Network.

Kellner resigned in January 1993—Diller had resigned 11 months earlier—and secured a place on Fox’s board of directors. But after launching a fourth broadcast network, he joined Warner Bros. In November 1993, eager to start a fifth network.

Kilner received 11 percent of the World Bank’s shares, while Warner Bros. received 64 percent and Tribune Company received 25 percent. (The network is built around six independent stations owned by the Tribune Company, including WPIX in New York and KTLA in Los Angeles.)

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After beating the bushes in a fierce battle between affiliates and competitors from the fledgling UPN network, Kilner celebrated the start of The WB when wayans bros. It aired on January 11, 1995, five days before UPN’s debut.

Family drama 7th sky It was WB’s first big hit, followed by other popular shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, Dawson’s Creek, Felicity And Charm.

“He had the detached personality of Mr. Spock at times,” Susan Daniels, executive director of the World Bank, wrote of Kellner in her 2007 book. end of the seasonco-authored it diverseCynthia Littleton. “He was not easy to impress, but he demonstrated such clear passion and dedication that he inspired a team of young executives, none more than me.”

James Kellner, one of five children, was born in Brooklyn in 1948 and grew up on Long Island. His father, also James, was a commodities broker on Wall Street. His mother, Jane, has been a volunteer at North Shore Hospital Auxiliary for more than three decades. He was an avid sailor who participated in yacht racing as a young man.

Kellner graduated with a degree in marketing from the CW Post campus of Long Island University, then entered the CBS Executive Training Program in 1969 with the help of his father.

Mentored by Hank Gillespie, he got a job in the network’s software sales department and went with that unit when it was spun off as Viacom Enterprises, rising to become vice president of programming, development and sales for the first time.

In 1978, Kellner moved to producer and distributor Filmways, where he came up with the idea of ​​synopsizing a 90-minute film. Saturday Night Live Episodes are in a half-hour format perfect for sharing. After Orion Pictures acquired Filmways in 1982, he oversaw programming, home video, pay TV and subscription there and oversaw the launch of Orion Pictures. Cagney and Lacey And restart Hollywood Squares.

At Fox, his innovative idea was to program a live episode of an anti-show In living color For the halftime show of the 1992 Super Bowl, broadcast on CBS. Those halftime shows were boring, but that would change quickly: Michael Jackson performed in 1993.

As the No. 2 executive at Fox Broadcasting behind Diller, he held a one percent stake in the network. When he left after seven years, he received compensation of between $10 million and $15 million, “a sliver of what… [he] “He hoped to benefit from his involvement with the World Bank.” end of the season.

For his next stop, Kellner teamed up again with Garth Unser — who had hired him as president of entertainment at Fox — and they programmed a night of “urban” sitcoms, including wayans bros, The Steve Harvey Show And The Jamie Foxx Show. The new network will target a younger audience, an audience that mature Fox has abandoned.

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“Jamie Kellner was the epitome of a CEO. Always smart, sometimes feisty, always thinking and often smiling, Jimmy gave executives lucky enough to work with him many a runway. He would end his conversations by asking, ‘Do we know what we’re doing?’” When things didn’t go as planned (and sometimes they didn’t) there was no worry, just “next time we’ll do it differently,” John Di Matta, former executive vice president and chief operating officer of the WB Television Network, wrote. In a statement. “The atmosphere that Jamie Kilner and Garth Unser created at the World Bank was a moment in my career for which I will always be grateful.”

After a protracted public bidding war, Kellner allowed the supernatural drama to air on 20th Century Fox Television Buffy the Vampire Slayercreated by Josh Whedon and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, moved to UPN after its fifth season (and its WB contract) ended in May 2001.

The World Bank was paying $1 million for the episode in licensing fees. UPN ended up paying more than $2.3 million per episode for 44 episodes over the show’s final two seasons.

Kellner had a 5.3 percent stake in ACME when he founded it with Tom Allen, the former CFO of Fox Broadcasting, and station CEO Doug Gilley. The company acquired underperforming stations in markets such as St. Louis; Salt Lake City; Albuquerque. Portland, Oregon; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Dayton, Ohio; And Knoxville, Tennessee. One report described the relationship between ACME and the World Bank “Vaguely incest.”

ACME had nine stations when it raised about $105 million through an IPO in September 1999. It grew to 12 stations before beginning the exit process in 2003.

Kilner fell out of favor with professional wrestling fans when he canceled World Championship Wrestling shows on TBS and TNT in one of his first programming decisions at Turner. He also tried and failed to make a splash on CNN in its battle with the upstart Fox News and pushed to merge the network with ABC News.

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After being replaced by Phil Kent, Kellner remained with The WB until the end of his contract in June 2004, when Ancier—who had exited The WB for a senior position at NBC before returning—was replaced by Jordan Levin and Jed Petrik. This will be his last big job.

“It feels like just yesterday that the partnership between Warner Bros. and Jimmy, as well as him and Bruce, began [Rosenblum] “We have criss-crossed the country with all sizes of aircraft and all types of weather recording affiliates,” Warner Bros. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Bros. said. Entertainment, Barry Meyer. He said then. “Jimmy and his team have executed a vision that exceeds the expectations of all those naysayers who loudly proclaimed that there was no room for more than four broadcast networks. Boy, were they wrong.

Kellner saw the WB network disappear in September 2006 when Warner Bros. replaced it. and CBS Corp. UPN was replaced by one network, The CW.

Survivors include his second wife, former entertainment banker Julie Smith; his daughter, Melissa Kellner Berman, who worked with television producer Greg Berlanti as a development executive; son Christopher; and siblings Thomas, Ronald and Nancy. His sister Karen died in 2005 at the age of 44.

“I don’t think there is another person in the history of television who can say they helped create two major new broadcast networks (Fox and WB),” Berlanti wrote in his tribute. “Jimmy Kellner was a giant and visionary in our industry, yet anyone fortunate enough to have worked with him as an executive or director will remember him as a warm, funny, engaging, creative and kind mentor, friend, husband and father-in-law.”

He continued: “He dedicated his life in television to nurturing generations of talent and betting on them in front of and behind the camera. I know I speak for many others when I say that my life has been changed by the wonderful Camelot House he created for all of us who worked at the World Bank. We will miss him very much.”

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