BBC Studios Goes Back To Drawing Board In Hunt For CEO At Request Of New BBC Chairman

Doctor Who
BBC Studios

EXCLUSIVE: BBC Studios has gone back out to the market in its search for a new chief executive at the request of new BBC chairman Richard Sharp, Deadline can reveal.

BBC Studios’ hunt for Tim Davie’s successor is now in its tenth month after the £1.4 billion ($2B) production, distribution, and broadcasting empire has been turned down by a string of high-profile executives.

Acting CEO Tom Fussell was recently seen as the frontrunner, with a number of sources expecting him to be handed the job permanently, but Sharp asked BBC Studios to go back to the drawing board after his arrival in February, per two sources.

BBC Studios is said to be casting its recruitment net globally and there is also chatter that former Goldman Sachs banker Sharp may have some candidates in mind from outside of the television industry.

The U.S. is said to be a particular area of focus for BBC Studios, which is being ambitious with its wishlist. One person familiar with the recruitment process said targets have included Gina Balian, FX Entertertainment’s president of original programming, and Paul Lee, the former ABC and BBC executive now running studio wiip. Peter Rice, Disney’s chairman of general entertainment, has also been linked to the role.

Salary is likely to be a big sticking point for these executives, however. Davie earned £600,000 in his final year as BBC Studios CEO and his successor may not receive this much, as the BBC drives down executive pay. BBC insiders acknowledge that it is unable to match top market rates, but the hope is always that the corporation’s unique purpose is attractive.

Another potential hurdle is Davie’s decision to demote the BBC Studios job from the BBC board. Industry executives have been baffled by the ambition, given the commercial arm’s importance to the corporation, though a u-turn is not beyond the realms of possibility if it was a dealbreaker for a big-name candidate.

Running BBC Studios remains one of the most prized jobs in the British industry, overseeing a company that makes globally renowned shows including Doctor Who and Planet Earth. But a number of executives have turned the role down, including former Endemol Shine Group CEO Sophie Turner Laing, All3Media CEO Jane Turton, and Cécile Frot-Coutaz, the YouTube EMEA boss who last week signed up to become the next chief executive of Sky Studios.

Deadline understands that the pandemic has made the BBC Studios recruitment process more complex, though insiders are comfortable with progress and CFO Fussell is seen as a capable interim leader. A BBC Studios spokeswoman said: “We wouldn’t comment on an appointment process prior to announcement.”

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