Sad news emerging from the British television industry: Emma Tennant, controller of UKTV, the joint venture between Discovery and BBC Worldwide, has died. She was 49. Tennant, also a former senior executive at ITV, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
I knew Emma well, she was incredibly warm, a hardworking executive who loved winding up journalists with a wicked smile and a sense of fun and trouble. I remember spending a week at the LA Screenings as UKTV was starting to ramp up the amount of programming it bought from the major Hollywood studios and she graciously let me follow her about to get an insider’s view of the deal-making, and schmoozing, that went down.
As the woman responsible for launching UKTV’s successful Drama channel, during an interview to announce the new channel, she made me guess what kind of network it would be launching for ages before finally revealing the news. She will be missed throughout the British television industry and I’m sure there will be plenty of tributes paid from her colleagues and people that worked closely with her.
In addition to Drama, she was responsible for launching premium entertainment channel W and helped UKTV boost its own original spending on shows such as Taskmaster, Dave Gorman Modern Life is Goodish, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled and Red Dwarf XI.
Before joining UKTV, she was controller of ITV Digital Channels and oversaw ITV3 and CITV, commissioning shows such as Bookaboo, Martina Coles’ Ladykillers and Ladies of Letters.
Emma started her TV career at Living TV where she was responsible for setting the channel’s strategy and establishing it as the must-see channel for a young, female demographic with smart acquisitions including CSI, Next Top Model and Will & Grace.
UKTV CEO Darren 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 other’s 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.”