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Fox shakes up television unit in bid to reverse ratings slip

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Twenty-First Century Fox Inc on Monday announced a reorganization of its television business as the network sought to push itself out of last place among the big U.S. broadcasters.

The company said Fox Broadcasting Company and 20th Century Fox Television will be housed under a new unit, Fox Television Group, bringing together its TV broadcasting and production units.

The move comes almost two months after Fox's top broadcast executive, Kevin Reilly, left from the network after it lost its top spot among viewers in the 18-49 age group that advertisers covet most.

Marquee Fox programs like singing contest "American Idol" and musical series "Glee" have also suffered sharp ratings declines in recent years.

Fox said Dana Walden and Gary Newman, both veterans at the network, will serve as co-chairmen and chief executive officers of the new Fox Television Group.

Combining the network and studio in the same unit will lead to a more streamlined development process, Walden said during a media conference call. The structure is similar to the way competing broadcasters operate.

"We want to make the development process smoother and more seamless" she said. "When a writer walks in the door with an idea, we will now be able to offer a singular point of view, which should offer tremendous reassurances to the talent."

The Fox studio will continue to produce shows for other networks, and the Fox broadcast network will air some series from other studios, the executives said.

Fox currently produces Showtime drama "Homeland" and ABC comedy "Modern Family," a perennial Emmy winner.

The shakeup of Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox's TV units also comes a year after the film and TV company was spun off from Murdoch's News Corp, which now operates publishing assets, including the Wall Street Journal.

Fox averaged 7.3 million daily prime-time viewers during the 2013-14 season, according to Nielsen data. That was up from 7 million last year, but the network fell one place to fourth behind CBS, NBC and ABC, respectively.

Its entertainment lineup consists of acclaimed comedies such as "The Mindy Project" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," but those shows have yet to generate top-line ratings for the network.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)

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