BBC Vision director, Jana Bennett will move to become president, worldwide networks and Global iPlayer at the Corporations commercial arm BBC Worldwide in February it was today confirmed.
Amongst her responsibilities in the new job, Bennett will be charged with overseeing the Global iPlayer, a subscription based video on demand service based on the BBC’s successful UK iPlayer platform expected to be launched early in 2011.
She will also take over the main duties of the BBC Worldwide Channels managing director Darren Childs who left his position to become the boss of UKTV, a joint venture with Virgin Media in which the BBC holds a 50 per cent stake.
American born Bennett has spent most of her career at the BBC, beginning as a trainee journalist in 1979, before moving on to produce for Panorama, edit Horizon and head up the Corporation’s science output. In 1997, she joined the BBC Board of Management as Director of Production and latterly became the Director of Programmes for BBC Production before leaving for the US company Discovery Communications in 1999.
Bennett returned to the Beeb in 2002 to become Director of Television, and it was under he guidance that the Corporation launched much of its digital portfolio, including BBC Three, BBC Four and BBC HD.
When Director General Mark Thompson restructured BBC divisions in 2006, Bennett was promoted to head of BBC Vision with overall creative and leadership responsibility for the commissioning, production and scheduling of television, video and online content across BBC TV.
Amongst Bennett’s successes, she brought landmark natural history series Life, to well, er, life … as well as commissioning worldwide hit Strictly Come Dancing, the new format Top Gear and The Apprentice, as well overseeing the return of Doctor Who to television screens.
In an email to staff this afternoon, Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC shared his admiration for Bennett with his colleagues, describing her as ‘an outstanding creative leader’ and a a ‘very supportive executive colleague.’
He added: ‘At her heart Jana is a programme-maker. Her understanding of what makes great television and what the audiences want has led to a sustained period of creative success.’
In a separate email to BBC staff, Bennett said she felt ‘privileged to have done the most interesting and creative job in UK media.’
At present, it is not clear who will succeed Bennett as the next boss at BBC vision, although it does appear that the division will remain despite previous rumours that it may be de-merged in another Corporation shake-up.
Amongst those rumoured to be in the running for the job, which currently carries a half a million pound a year salary (although may be reduced) include several BBC insiders like BBC Archives boss Roly Keating, BBC North director Peter Salmon and BBC controller of Knowledge Commissioning George Entwistle.
However, outsiders in with a shout might include top dog at ITV Studios Kevin Lygo, former Talkback Thames chief Lorraine Heggessey, and once BBC Two controller Jane Root.