BBC Appoints Piers Wenger as Drama Chief

BBC Appoints Piers Wenger as Drama
Courtesy of the BBC

The BBC has appointed Piers Wenger, Channel 4’s head of drama, as controller of BBC drama commissioning, responsible for more than 450 hours of drama a year, including global hits like “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock.” Beth Willis replaces him at Channel 4, where she is his deputy.

Wenger’s new role is one of the most prestigious jobs in the world of TV drama, greenlighting shows that are then exported to the U.S. and around the world. BBC commissions include “Peaky Blinders,” “War and Peace” and “Call the Midwife.”

Wenger, who starts at the BBC in the fall, has been Channel 4’s drama chief since 2012, commissioning original scripted drama across both Channel 4 and its youth-skewed channel, E4. He has broadened the range of drama on the main channel and shifted the emphasis to include more returning series.

“Indian Summers,” Paul Abbott’s “No Offence” and “Humans” were all re-commissioned for second seasons following strong ratings performances. In 2015, “Indian Summers” recorded the highest-ever overnight in 20 years for a Channel 4 drama; “Humans” went on to break that record later the same year.

At the same time, Wenger has maintained Channel 4’s penchant for topical and challenging drama with the BAFTA-winning “This is England 90” and “Southcliffe,” as well as the upcoming “National Treasure” by Jack Thorne and Peter Kosminsky’s forthcoming ISIS drama. He has also increased the number of co-productions in order to greenlight bigger-budget shows.

Prior to Channel 4, Wenger was head of drama at BBC Wales and executive producer of “Doctor Who” when Matt Smith was in the lead role. Wenger’s other BBC commissioning credits include Tom Stoppard’s “Parade’s End,” “Christopher and His Kind” and “Eric and Ernie,” which starred Victoria Wood. Before joining the BBC in 2008, Wenger produced “Housewife 49” for ITV and “Ballet Shoes” for the BBC, and was head of development at Granada Drama.

Charlotte Moore, BBC controller of TV channels and iPlayer, said in a statement: “Piers is a brilliant creative leader with great taste and a passion for writing. He has a breadth of experience and knowledge of the global industry, as well as a real understanding of audiences.”

Willis, Wenger’s successor at Channel 4, is a former producer at the BBC, executive-producing “Doctor Who” and the BAFTA-winning “Eric and Ernie,” and at Kudos Film and Television, producing “Ashes to Ashes.” She started her career as a script editor at Granada.

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