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Content Canada 2019

ITV poaches BBC drama boss

UK commercial broadcaster ITV has confirmed it is hiring the recently appointed head of drama at the BBC to replace Steve November as its own scripted chief as part of wide-ranging management changes.

Polly Hill

Polly Hill

Polly Hill has been in the top drama job at the UK pubcaster less than a year having stepped up from her previous role as head of independent drama in May.

She replaced Ben Stephenson as controller of drama, crowning a decade with the corporation as executive producer and commissioning editor, among other roles.

However, following the departure of ITV’s director of drama November last week, the BBC’s main commercial rival has moved quickly to pull off a surprise coup.

Hill’s arrival at ITV comes amidst wide-ranging changes to the broadcaster’s senior programming teams.

Optomen MD Sue Murphy will join ITV commissioning as head of factual entertainment, while Siobhan Greene will move from ITV Studios to become the commissioning team’s head of entertainment, with Angela Jain succeeding as MD of ITV Studios Entertainment.

Discovery Networks International’s senior VP of content and operations, Rosemary Newell, will become ITV’s head of digital channels and acquisitions, replacing Jain, while Peter Davey has been promoted to head of comedy entertainment.

The changes come after Kevin Lygo moved from ITV Studios to replace the outgoing Peter Fincham as head of ITV in January.

Lygo said: “A channel’s programming is only as good as the choices the commissioning teams make, and so it is vital to have the best people possible in these crucial positions.

“I’m delighted to announce that Polly, Sue, Siobhan, Peter, and Rosemary will be joining imminently to lead the programming team through the next phase of ITV’s output. Each of them bring a blend of passion and experience to the roles and I’m confident that, as a team, we can continue to build on the raft of shows that help to make ITV Britain’s most popular commercial channel.”

Hill added: “After 11 years at the BBC I am proud to be leaving it at the top of its game. ITV has always played a vital part in the landscape of British drama, and shows such as Cracker, Prime Suspect and Band of Gold had a huge influence on me and the drama I wanted to make.

“I am proud to be joining ITV and will lead the drama department into its next exciting chapter, making the very best popular drama, which will feel original, distinctive and authored. It’s a new journey for me and I can’t wait to start.”

Hill beat off competition from former BBC exec Faith Penhale, head of drama at BBC Wales, to take the top job at the pubcaster, with the latter subsequently leaving to join UK prodco Lookout Point. Stephenson, meanwhile, confirmed he was leaving to join JJ Abrams’ prodco Bad Robot in the US in March last year.

Her departure is yet another blow to the BBC’s senior management team, which has seen director of TV Danny Cohen and BBC Studios chief Peter Salmon exit over recent months, along with numerous other execs.

The additions at ITV come after a raft of senior departures, including entertainment and comedy chief Elaine Bedell as well as director of factual Richard Klein.

Murphy, a former commissioning head at both Channel 4 and Channel 5 in the UK, will step into the newly created post of head of factual entertainment. ITV’s controller of factual, Jo Clinton Davis, will continue in her role reporting to Murphy, with a particular responsibility as head of documentary.

She said that “helping to reshape and evolve the factual footprint of a broadcasting institution like ITV is just an irresistible opportunity. I started my career at ITV (Granada) and I am really looking forward to commissioning and creating a new generation of ITV fact ent formats and programme brands.”

Greene, meanwhile, becomes head of entertainment and takes on commissioning responsibilities for ITV’s existing entertainment formats including Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor. She will also assume responsibility for brand extension shows on ITV2, including Get Me Out Of Here Now!, Britain’s Got More Talent and The Xtra Factor.

Davey was most recently ITV entertainment commissioner and will now head commissioning for existing and new entertainment shows including studio-based formats and physical gameshows, quiz and panel shows and reality formats, as well as scripted and sketch comedy for both ITV’s main channel and its digital nets.

Jain’s role as MD of ITV Studios Entertainment, will see her lead the division to create programming for both ITV and non-ITV channels, while her replacement, Newell, will oversee ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, CiTV, ITV Encore and ITVBe, as well as acquired programming across the network.

Hill, Murphy, Greene, Davey and Newell will all report to Lygo, while Jain will report to Julian Bellamy, MD of ITV Studios.

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