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BBC taps Ancier for U.S. post

TV vet named president of U.S. operations

The Beeb is looking to beef up its brand in the States.

By tapping TV vet Garth Ancier as BBC Worldwide Americas prexy of U.S. operations, the Blighty broadcaster sent a clear signal that it intends to dramatically grow its business here. Wide-ranging gig will put Ancier in charge of everything BBC in the States — from giving cabler BBC America a stronger (and hopefully higher-rated) identity to building on the success of original productions such as “Dancing With the Stars.”

In the newly created post, Ancier is expected to focus on launching BBC-branded cablers centered on news and kidvid programming. He’ll also help launch the Beeb’s revamped Internet presence in the U.S., said Darren Childs, managing director of global channels for BBC Worldwide.

While the Beeb has made much headway in the States, “It just seemed the only way we were going to really punch through and deliver growth was if we had someone who understood America running our business,” Childs said. “We want to do more.”

Ancier’s appointment reps the first time the BBC has placed all of its Stateside units under the direction of one U.S.-based exec. In the past, the company’s various American businesses reported to suits in London.

“Bringing all of our businesses in the U.S. under the guidance of someone with Garth’s experience and vision will be invaluable for BBC Worldwide as we move to double the scale of our business in this territory,” said BBC Worldwide CEO John Smith, to whom Ancier will report.

On the cable front, BBC America — owned by BBC but distributed via a joint venture with Discovery — has scored critical and PR kudos for projects such as “The Office,” “Viva Blackpool” and “Footballers’ Wives.” Ratings haven’t yet matched the buzz, however, and it’s expected Ancier will try to help BBC America create a signature skein of its own, much the way “The Daily Show” is identified with Comedy Central.

Creating original content is especially important now that so many BBC-branded skeins are being adapted by U.S. broadcasters — many with the help of BBC Worldwide Americas’ own content division.

Company has two comedy pilots (“The Thick of It” at ABC, “I’m With Stupid” for NBC/Reveille) and one drama project (“Viva Laughlin” at CBS) in the works at the broadcast nets this development season. Last year, it inked a first-look deal with Sony Pictures Television, which is producing “Thick” and “Laughlin.”

But not all things Blighty come from BBC.

ABC, for example, is adapting “Footballers’ Wives” and “Life on Mars”– shows that aired on BBC America but aren’t being produced by the Beeb Stateside. Same goes for NBC’s Reveille-produced “The Office.”

Ancier said he’ll have plenty of resources with which to build new businesses and expand existing ones.

“The BBC is probably the largest source of creative ideas on the planet, from a TV perspective,” he told Daily Variety. “They have this amazing content library, and these kinds of roles always come back to dealing with content.”

Most recently, Ancier had been working in a dual role at Warner Bros. Television, overseeing creative content for In2TV and developing programming.

That job, plus Ancier’s past gigs, give him plenty of experience in areas where BBC Worldwide Americas could benefit. He’s worked in cable programming (Turner), news (CNN), broadcast production (NBC, Fox, the WB), distribution (he created “The Ricki Lake Show”) and new media (In2TV).

Childs said the Beeb has been searching for someone to fill the U.S. topper role since last summer. Company approached Ancier late last year as the WB was closing up shop, and the two sides quickly began talking about a deal.

“As soon as we met, we knew something was going to happen,” Childs said.

Because Ancier had an overall deal with the studio, exec said he “went to (Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman-CEO) Barry Meyer and said, ‘This is an extraordinary opportunity, and I’d like to do this.’ They were very gracious about it.”

After being based in Los Angeles for years, Ancier — who’s run the entertainment divisions at NBC, Fox and the WB — will relocate to BBC Worldwide Americas’ HQ in Gotham.

He’ll be part of a new BBC Worldwide Americas board that will include Childs, David Moody (digital media), Mark Young (global sales) and Wayne Garvie (content and production).

Among the execs reporting directly to Ancier will be BBC America general manager Kathryn Mitchell and BBC Worldwide Prods. topper Paul Telegdy.

Telegdy has already helped BBC break though in the production arena, launching the ABC hit “Dancing With the Stars” and setting up “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” at NBC.

Other areas of BBC Worldwide reporting to Ancier include home entertainment, television sales, digital media and audiobooks.

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