Pickard programs departure from ITV

Unconfirmed reports suggests he landed a job at RDF

Nigel Pickard, program topper of Blighty terrestrial web ITV, is ankling following months of speculation over his future.

Pickard, whose job was effectively downgraded with the appointment of Simon Shaps as ITV’s director of television last fall, will announce his departure later this week.

Unconfirmed reports suggest he has landed a job at U.K. independent RDF, maker of “Wife Swap.” Pickard, former head of children’s at the BBC, where he launched two kids’ weblets, may be mulling other jobs offers.

He follows three other ITV commissioners out the door — entertainment director Claudia Rosencrantz, ex-daytime editor Liam Hamilton and daytime editor Nick Thorogood.

One of the most popular webheads in Blighty, Pickard joined ITV as program topper in February 2003.

He leaves on a high note after a successful fall schedule thanks to reality show “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me out of Here” and talent skein “The X Factor,” following a summer blighted by the failure of “Celebrity Love Island” and “Celebrity Wrestling.”

Shaps, who Monday unveiled station identities for ITV’s four channels, now must appoint a successor to Rosencrantz.

The favorite for the gig is Granada America topper Paul Jackson, who has made no secret of his desire to return to Blighty.

Shaps hopes that his new, streamlined commissioning team can stem the long-term decline of flagship web ITV1 and increase auds for ITV2 and 3.

Launching the branding for ITV, he said: “One of the things that underlies our thinking is that channels as brands are still important to viewers. We’re not yet in an on-demand world.”

Meanwhile, shares in ITV have rallied in recent days on speculation of a possible bid for the broadcaster from British Telecom.

The telco is preparing a broadband-delivered on-demand service and recently inked content deals with Paramount, Warner Music and the BBC.

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