Prominent TV executive David Lyle passed away today at his Los Angeles home after a tough, long fought battle with cancer. He was 67.
Lyle, respected and well liked by his peers, has been a fixture in the U.S. unscripted business for almost two decades with stints as president of FremantleMedia North America and CEO of National Geographic Channels. Throughout his career, he fought for indie producers, most recently via trade associations PactUS and NPACT, and was a champion for creative producers worldwide.
A native of Sydney, Australia, Lyle, known for his wit and sense of humor, initially took a different career path. With a degree in geology and geophysics, he worked as an exploration geologist and high school chemistry teacher before entering the television business as a writer and segment producer for the TEN and Australian Broadcasting Networks in Australia. In 1988, he landed at NINE Network as a program creator and executive producer, rising to head of development and acquisitions at the Australian network where he first made his mark in reality TV.
Lyle entered the U.S. unscripted space as President of Entertainment for FremantleMedia North America from 2001-04. As the company’s first leader in the U.S., he established a foothold with a slew of shows. Among them was Fox’s blockbuster hit American Idol, which helped ignite the current U.S. primetime reality boom.
Lyle went on to become president of Fox Cable Networks’ Fox Reality Channel for five years and president of Fox LOOK, a business unit he launched to handle international distribution for Fox Network Group’s unscripted entertainment TV programming.
Next on was a three-year tenure as CEO of National Geographic Channels, running National Geographic Channel and its sister networks, NatGeo WILD and NatGeo Mundo. Lyle helped put NatGeo on the map, bringing hits like Wicked Tuna, Life Below Zero, and the Emmy-nominated Brain Games. He also ushered scripted programming on the channel with the popular Killing movie franchise beginning with Killing Lincoln.
“David was a brilliant mentor and friend,” said Howard Owens, founder and co-CEO of Propagate Content. “His vision spanned the globe at Fremantle, National Geographic Channels and beyond. He believed in creativity, took risks, and always had your back. We will all miss him dearly.”
Recently, Lyle helped organize unscripted TV producers, leading the merger of PactUS, which he spearheaded as chairman with the NPA into NPACT.
“David Lyle was a rare breed, in our industry and in the world. A true “bon vivant,” he brought light and life into every room, along with a passion for the creatives of this business,” John Ford, General Manager, NPACT said on behalf of the entire NPACT organization and producers community. “Among his many contributions to entertainment, network and television production was his role in bringing together Pact US and the NPA earlier this year as one unified organization, dedicated to harnessing the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of producers in a new age. We will all miss David’s maverick mettle, along with his vitality, brilliant insights and humor, and offer our deepest condolences to his wife Janne, his children Sam, Polly and Joanna, and his many friends and colleagues.”
Lyle is being remembered for his hard work on behalf of reality creators and producers.
“David was a champion for the underdog creators, a passionate advocate for formats and a true believer who inspired countless producers, format creators and channels the world over,” said Phil Gurin, Co-Chair of FRAPA, IM Global Television. “He co-founded FRAPA many years ago to help bring order out of the chaos of the format industry, where copying was no longer seen as the sincerest form of flattery but more like what it is: copyright infringement and IP theft.
He was a dear friend, confidante, raconteur and legend. He shall be missed here, there and everywhere…especially at the bar at the Carlton Hotel with a dram in his hand, a smile on his face and a story in his heart. FRAPA and the entire industry have lost one of the greats.”