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Tributes paid to UKTV’s Emma Tennant

Emma Tennant, the former ITV exec who had been controller of UKTV since 2011, has passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Emma Tennant

Tennant died on Tuesday aged 49 and UTKV CEO Darren Childs led tributes.

Childs said: “Anyone who met Emma knew her to be one of the kindest, warmest and most nurturing people working in television. She had a sharp wit and incredible strength, and is an inspiration to her team and those around her.

“We are all in total admiration of how hard she fought, and how she was still able to put others’ needs before her own. Despite her long illness, her untimely passing comes as an awful shock to me and all of our colleagues.

“All of our thoughts are with Emma’s husband and daughters, of whom she is very proud, and with her many friends.”

Under her stewardship, UKTV launched new channel Drama and premium entertainment channel W. UKTV also significantly increased its investment in programming and expanded its original commissions into scripted comedy, which sit alongside entertainment, factual entertainment and comedy formats such as breakout hits Taskmaster, Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled and Red Dwarf XI.

UKTV is a 50/50 joint venture between BBC Worldwide and Discovery-owned Scripps Networks Interactive. Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Worldwide, said: “We are extremely sad to hear the news of Emma’s untimely death, and send condolences to her family, and to her colleagues at UKTV. Emma’s reputation went before her, as a brilliant and original commissioner and channel executive, with clear vision and imagination. She will be mourned by all who knew her, and her loss will be widely felt.”

Before moving to UKTV, Tennant was controller of ITV Digital Channels, collaborating with the director of digital channels on editorial strategy for ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV.

She oversaw a 14% growth in ITV Digital Channels and ITV3’s rise to become the leading digital channel in UK and the largest growing digital channel in 2010.

Prior to that, she was controller of ITV3 and CITV, commissioning successful CITV shows including Bookaboo, which won a Children’s Bafta, Broadcast Award and Prix Jeunesse. For ITV3 she commissioned Martina Cole’s Lady Killers and Ladies of Letter.

Kevin Lygo, director of TV at ITV, today said: “We are terribly saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Emma Tennant. Emma was a great talent and a much-loved colleague at ITV.

“She had a huge impact on the success of our digital channels and made very many friends here, all of whom will miss her enormously. Our thoughts are with her family at this time.”

Sasha Breslau, head of acquired series at ITV, who worked closely with Emma during her time at the commercial broadcaster, added: “I will remember Emma above all for her generosity of spirit, both as a colleague taking me under her awe-inspiring wing in Cannes, and as a friend. Notwithstanding everything else, she would still go out of her way to listen and support others. Inspiring in every sense, and will be sorely missed.”

Tennant started her TV career at Living TV, where she was responsible for setting the channel’s strategy and establishing it as the must-watch network for a young, female demographic, with smart acquisitions including CSI, Next Top Model and Will & Grace.

Jay Kandola, formerly director of acquisitions at UKTV and now UK acquisitions consultant for Foxtel in Australia, said: “Emma was incredibly smart and effortlessly charming. She approached difficult business matters with ease and simplified what was needed and then got things done. She lit up any room that she worked into and to say that she will be sorely missed is a gross understatement.”

Producers and distributors who have worked with Emma over the years were quick to voice their shock and pay tribute when news broke on Thursday.

Danny Fenton, CEO of UK indie Zig Zag Productions, said: “Emma was genuinely one of the warmest, kindest and most generous people I had the pleasure to work with. I will always remember her with a smile on her a face.”

Julie Delaney, director of worldwide distribution at Starline Entertainment, added: “Besides being one of the most talented and warm TV execs in the business, Emma was one of the most inspiring people I have ever known and a truly fabulous, irreplaceable friend of more than 20 years. I will miss her terribly – a huge loss.”

Kathryn Rice, senior VP of sales at Content Films, said: “I am truly devastated to hear the news about Emma. I have known and worked with her for over 20 years. She always approached everything with a smile, she had such a generous spirit, she was warm-hearted, funny and a true friend. She will be missed by so many people, but today my thoughts are with her family, who were always her first priority.”

Sarah Tong, director of sales at Hat Trick International, said: “Having known and worked with Emma for over 20 years, she is a huge loss to the industry and the hundreds of colleagues and friends she has left behind. A warm, funny, kind and gorgeous lady, who will be greatly missed.”

Caroline Stephenson, senior VP of EMEA North for All3Media International, said: “Emma was a rare and special person who combined massive knowledge and flair with home-spun common sense and a great sense of fun. We both started in TV back in the mid-nineties and Emma gave me an immediate sense that telly was a fun and stimulating place to be. It was a genuine privilege to have known her for over 20 years and the industry will reap from her legacy for years to come.”

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