Comedy Central lands pond jumper

BBC's Mitchell new VP of programming

NEW YORK — American cable networks are carrying on a raging love affair with British television executives.

The latest London expatriate to heed the siren call of U.S. showbiz is Kathryn Mitchell. She has resigned as controller of BBC and Flextech joint venture UKTV, where she runs seven ad-supported cable channels, to become senior VP of programming for Comedy Central.

Her new boss in the States, Bill Hilary, is an Irish-born programmer who left the BBC 18 months ago to become exec VP at the laff web.

Just a month ago, Barry Diller’s USA Networks raided England’s Channel 4 to capture chief executive Michael Jackson. He is now in charge of all of USA’s entertainment divisions, encompassing cable nets, as well as movie and TV production and distri-bution.

Mitchell said she couldn’t wait to move to New York and join Comedy Central early in October. She’s fond of British pro-grams, but “the first TV series I fell in love with was ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show.’ ”

“Kathryn is a TV fanatic,” Hilary said. “She’s obsessed with scheduling, and being in charge of seven cable channels in Eng-land, all of them with different kinds of programming, she was able to do all sorts of innovative things.”

Stunt woman

“I’m a fan of TV-series marathons and other program stunting,” she said, acknowledging that she often studied techniques en-gineered by American TV schedulers.

She also likes to experiment with program lineups, and Hilary said that will be a major asset to Comedy Central. For example, Mitchell said she overturned conventional wisdom by stripping a few of UKTV’s shows seven days of the week.

“I also like to work with what I call an L-shaped schedule,” she said, in which a series is run across seven days, with all of the episodes repeated vertically on the seventh day for people who had missed some or all of them.

Mitchell joined UKTV in October 1997 as head of programming for the UK Gold channel. In November 1999, she moved up to programming head for all seven UKTV channels, including UK Gold. UKTV promoted her to controller (the equivalent of general manager in the U.S.) in October.

From 1992-96, Mitchell held various executive posts at BSkyB.

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