LONDON — Richard Eyre, chief executive of the ITV network, has been appointed chief exec of Pearson Television, a move that comes as a surprise to the U.K. TV community.
Eyre replaces Greg Dyke, who left Pearson to become the next director general of the BBC, a position for which Eyre had been a strong contender.
Eyre, 45, joins Pearson in January. Pearson is one of the world’s major indie programmers, with fare such as the Brit crime soap “The Bill” and “Neighbours,” the Aussie soap made by Pearson-owned TV outfit Grundy.
Bringing Eyre on board is a coup for Marjorie Scardino, chief exec of Pearson media group. The hire could signal a further push into broadcasting, the obvious target being Channel 5, in which Pearson holds a 24% stake. The investment bank Warburg Pincus is understood to be looking to sell its C5 stake.
Scardino said: “Richard is a great leader and manager of talent, with a sure touch for successful and popular programs. We are very pleased to have been able to lure him.”
Eyre’s exit from ITV, Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, comes after only two years in the job. He and programming head David Liddiment are credited with having turned around ITV’s fortunes after the web suffered a decline in audience share.
Running ITV, however, is inevitably a balancing act. The back-room power belongs to Granada, Carlton and United News & Media, the “big three” ITV companies.