Fox, WB creator Jamie Kellner dies of cancer at 77

By Sarah May on
 June 24, 2024

The entertainment world is mourning this weekend amid news that a longtime television network pioneer has died after a battle with cancer.

As Variety reports, Jamie Kellner, the man behind the creation of Fox and The WB, died Friday in California at the age of 77.

Legendary career remembered

Kellner rose to notoriety within the television world due to his status as the only individual to be responsible for the birth and success of two distinct broadcast networks, namely, Fox and The WB.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, much of Kellner's most significant success took root in the late 1980s through the mid 1990s, when he conceptualized and launched the aforementioned networks and brought them to profitability.

In 2001, Kellner was also tapped to take on a substantial role atop TBS, TNT and CNN, duties that came with the title of chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting System, a position he held for two years.

He also chaired ACME Communications, a station ownership group that included a number of WB affiliates, carving out a unique and nearly unprecedented niche as a network executive who also took an active part in the station side of the enterprise.

Groundbreaking career

It was in early 1986 that industry moguls Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller called upon Kellner to serve as the brains behind a Fox network that would be positioned to compete with the likes of ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Their trust in Kellner paid great dividends, as he worked diligently to construct an effective affiliate work that took an innovative approach to all aspects of the television business.

Speaking to the New York Times in the late 80s, Kellner explained, “One of the first tests we apply [with a show] is: Would one of the three networks do this? And quite often, if the answer is yes, then we disqualify it.”

Kellner went on, “There is no reason for us to exist if we are going to do that they have already done,” and that philosophy was evident in the programming for which Fox became known in its early years.

Shows such as Married...With Children, The Simpsons, In Living Color, Beverly Hills 90210, and Melrose Place were among the massively popular hits that made Kellner's Fox network an overwhelming success story, with 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, Dawson's Creek, and Charmed doing the same for The WB.

Tributes pour in

Producer David Berlanti was among those remembering Kellner fondly after news of his passing broke, declaring, Jamie Kellner was a titan and a visionary in our industry and yet he will be remembered by anyone lucky enough to work for him as an executive or as a showrunner as a warn, funny, charismatic, creative, and kind mentor, friend, husband, and Dad.”

Fellow industry executive John D. Maatta stated, “Jamie Kellner was the perfect model of a CEO. Smart always, pugnacious sometimes, always thinking and often smiling, Jamie gave the executives lucky enough to work for him lots of runway.”

In addition to legions of colleagues who admired his work over the years, Kellner leaves behind wife Julie Smith, daughter Melissa Kellner Berman, son Christopher, and three siblings.

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