BBC, Skinner part ways

2-year, $32 mil contract renewal called 'ridiculous'

LONDON — The BBC is dropping popular comedian Frank Skinner after the TV star’s reps reportedly asked for a whopping $32 million to renew his contract for another two years.

Alan Yentob, the BBC’s director of television, cut off talks with Avalon, Skinner’s management and production company, late Wednesday. Yentob dismissed Avalon’s demands as “ridiculous,” adding that the BBC “offered what we think is a generous price for a new and wide-ranging deal.”

Given how much Avalon asked for — and it probably refers to an output deal — it would seem likely that Skinner already has other plans. Both the ITV network and satcaster BSkyB confirmed interest in Skinner to Daily Variety.

Most recently, Skinner scored with the late night BBC1 chat show “The Frank Skinner Show,” which peaked at 5.8 million viewers. Skinner also co-hosted “Fantasy Football League” with his friend David Baddiel, who has just signed to do a sitcom for satcaster BSkyB (Daily Variety, Sept. 2).

The BBC has lost other talents to rival broadcasters over the past few months. Sportscaster Des Lynam has gone over to ITV, and comedian Harry Enfield is also creating a series for BSkyB, albeit on a non-exclusive basis.