The BBC has confirmed what has been UK industry gossip for months: That it is scrapping TV channel controller roles after decades in favor of a model placing greater emphasis on streaming-first commissioning.
BBC chief content officer Charlotte Moore outlined the radical overhaul to staff on Tuesday after conducting a review of the way the British broadcaster greenlights shows at a time when U.S. streamers like Netflix are hoovering up viewers.
From April next year, the BBC will no longer have controllers overseeing BBC One, BBC Two, and BBC Four. Instead, portfolio editors will be appointed to handpick shows commissioned largely for iPlayer by genre heads with supercharged powers.
These genre heads will become directors and will have complete autonomy over the shows they commission without the need for a second “tick” from a channel controller. Moore will also no longer have her name on big new shows.
Under this new system, BBC Two controller Patrick Holland will become director of factual, while the other major genres will be led by Piers Wenger (drama), Shane Allen (comedy), Rose Garnett (film), and Kate Phillips (entertainment).
Elsewhere, iPlayer controller Dan McGolpin will move into the new role of director of iPlayer and channels, overseeing a team that includes the portfolio editors of BBC One, BBC Two, and BBC Four.
These editors will not have commissioning power, but will help shape the BBC’s TV offering by windowing content greenlit by genre directors. So, for example, when Wenger orders a show like His Dark Materials, he will work with portfolio editors to decide where and when it airs on iPlayer and television.
McGolpin’s team will also comprise an iPlayer chief, a head of portfolio scheduling, channel editor of daytime and early-peak programming, and head of program acquisition. These roles, as well as the channel editors, will be filled in the coming months.
With some roles opening and others closing, the BBC is unable to say at this point whether there will be redundancies. It did say, however, that the new structure will result in an overall reduction in costs as the broadcaster bids to save £925M ($1.2B) by March 2022.
All six genre directors and McGolpin will report to Moore, who acknowledged that the restructure represents a “radical change in the way we commission content.”
She added: “BBC iPlayer will be at the very heart of our offer, but our channels are what set us apart and will continue to be critical to our success. We must feel indispensable to audiences across the UK, and these changes will help us to commission the most creative and ambitious programmes.”
The only outlier to the changes announced today is the BBC’s youth service, BBC Three. Fiona Campbell will remain the controller of the service that gave the world Normal People and Fleabag, meaning she retains commissioning power.
The BBC is considering whether to restore BBC Three to television after it was made an online-only service in 2016. The corporation did not provide an update on its thinking around BBC Three today, or how its return to TV fits with a broader plan to supercharge iPlayer.
BBC insiders have been upbeat about the changes in conversations with Deadline in recent weeks, and the overhaul comes at a time when other major UK broadcasters are also restructuring to place a greater emphasis on streaming.
Channel 4 announced last month that it is prioritizing digital commissioning as part of plans to secure 30% of its £985M ($1.3B) total revenue from online advertising by 2025. ITV is creating a new media and entertainment division as it aims to “better reflect and serve changing viewing habits.”
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