Cécile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of FremantleMedia, is exiting the company to join YouTube. One of the TV industry’s most senior and longstanding female execs, she has been in the post since 2012 after more than two decades with the production/distribution giant. She is also the former CEO of FremantleMedia North America and was exec producer on American Idol, America’s Got Talent and The X Factor USA. She confirmed that she is joining the Google-owned company as Head of EMEA, working with Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, to spearhead its growth strategies across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 

A process has been initiated to select a new CEO. RTL Group’s Executive Committee is in talks with Frot-Coutaz for a smooth transition at the helm of the Group’s global content arm until her departure.

Since taking on the CEO role in 2012, Frot-Coutaz has built up FremantleMedia’s pipeline of scripted and non-scripted content, largely through acquiring minority stakes in UK and European indies. It has taken 25% stakes in dozens of production companies in the last few years including The Young Pope producer Wildside, Scandinavian drama producer Miso Film, which recently secured Netflix drama The Rain, Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It TV, Simon Dickson and Lorraine Charker-Phillips’ Label 1, Simon Andreae’s Naked Entertainment, Justin Gorman’s Man Alive Entertainment and Colette Foster’s Full Fat TV.

Its internal production arms have also grown; its North American unit’s success with dramas such as Starz’ American Gods helped it grow its full-year financial operating profits last month by 8.5% last month, bolstering parent company RTL’s numbers. It is also high on forthcoming series such as Australian drama Picnic at Hanging Rock and HBO’s My Brilliant Friend as well as Deutschland 86, the second season of the German period drama. Last year, the company also brought together two of its major UK entertainment labels The X Factor producer Thames and Celebrity Juice producer Talkback as it looks to build the next generation of “cross-genre” entertainment hits.

Her move to YouTube comes on the back of FremantleMedia’s digital success over the last couple of years. The company is understood to have generated around 20BN YouTube views for its content, including clips of shows such as American Idol, The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, more than any other individual production company, broadcaster or Hollywood studio. It has also distributed more than 10,000 videos that each have other 1M views, so she will be well placed to lead YouTube across Europe.

Speaking at YouTube’s Brandcast event last year, Frot-Coutaz said, “Thanks to digital platforms like YouTube the world is a lot smaller, fan bases are a lot larger and…your ability to make an impact on popular culture is entirely in your hands.”

In a note to staff, seen by Deadline, she said, “I’ve always said that two things would need to be the case for me to consider leaving. First, and most importantly, Fremantle would need to be firing on all cylinders – brimming with creative excellence and unstoppable momentum. Second, it would take a unique challenge that offers me something completely new and different. Both of those conditions have been met, and it is therefore with a heavy heart but unshakeable confidence in the future that I have decided to leave Fremantle and open a new chapter in my professional life.”

Frot-Coutaz added, “FremantleMedia has been a lot more than my place of work for the past 23 years — it’s been the place I’ve called home. Decisions like this are never easy, but I know I leave behind a thriving, confident company with a terrific pipeline, dynamic global leadership, a supportive shareholder and, most importantly, a world-class team of creatives. I go on to explore new challenges safe in the knowledge that FremantleMedia’s best days lie ahead.”

Bert Habets, CEO of RTL Group, added, “I would like to thank Cécile for her extraordinary creative and commercial achievements at FremantleMedia. She has built FremantleMedia North America into the largest operation in FremantleMedia’s global network, serving also as executive producer of hit formats such as American Idol and America’s Got Talent. As CEO of FremantleMedia, she has successfully put creativity back in the center of the company over the past six years. With its expanding slate of high-end drama series and iconic entertainment shows, FremantleMedia is strongly positioned to grow significantly in the future. I regret, but understand Cécile’s decision. All of us wish her the best in her future endeavors.”

Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer for YouTube, added, “Cécile comes with incredible experience in the media industry. Her leadership, guidance, strong network and deep industry understanding will be invaluable as we continue to strengthen our partnerships and grow our creator base throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”