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A+E UK exec takes COBA chair

UK industry body the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) has elected the head of A+E Networks UK as its chair.


Heather Jones

Heather Jones will steer COBA’s board in organising strategy during a two-year term, having taken over the role from Discovery’s Susanna Dinnage, who recently reneged on her decision to become CEO of the English Premier League.

Jones has been general manager and senior VP of content and creative at A+E Networks UK since 2015, having joined the firm in 2013. In October last year, her role was expanded to include the title of senior VP of content and creative, EMEA.

Before joining A+E, Jones was MD of All3Media-owned North One Television, prior to which she was director of television at Viacom in the UK. She has also worked at Paramount Comedy, Flextech, Buena Vista Television and Euro Disney.

Jones takes up her position in a crucial period for COBA as the deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) edges closer. The organisation has been an ardent critic of the UK government’s arrangements for the broadcast sector in its Brexit planning, most recently warning that the £1bn digital, cable and satellite industry was on a “cliff edge.”

Several oversees broadcasters operating in the UK have applied for licences in other European countries to ensure they can continue beaming their channels into the region after the UK leaves the EU, with Discovery becoming the latest to take action.

“This is a hugely exciting and challenging time for the multichannel sector and the UK television industry as a whole,” Jones said. “On behalf of COBA members, I would also like to thank Susanna Dinnage for serving as a fantastic chair. It’s a privilege to follow in her footsteps and represent the collective interests of the multichannel industry.”

COBA’s support is underscored by the body’s new 2019 Content Report, published today, which found the multichannel broadcasters invested £1.1bn (US$1.4bn) into television programme creation in 2017.

It is the first time annual investment had topped £1bn and highlights the significant role overseas companies play in supporting UK public service broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) in producing domestic content.

The study, carried out by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates on behalf of COBA, found that investment in UK content by multichannel broadcasters had risen three-quarters since 2011, generating an increase in annual investment of nearly half a billion pounds. Nearly 90% of investment in 2017 (£965m) was in first-run UK content.

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