Airey reunited with Ford at Five

Channel 4 buyer returns to RTL fold

LONDON — Dawn Airey, who two days ago took over the CEO’s seat at U.K. terrestrial web Five, has wasted no time in making her first senior appointment by poaching seasoned TV and film buyer Jeff Ford.

Ford, director of acquisitions for Channel 4 and head of digital channel Film4, is to join Five as managing director, digital channels and acquisitions, early in the New Year.

The move re-unites the pair who worked together to help launch Five when it bowed in 1997.

Ford will be responsible for the broadcaster’s digital channels, Fiver and Five US, and acquisitions across all channels.

He will report directly to Airey, and sit on Five’s executive board.

He will have his work cut out at Five. It is a much more competitive market for U.S. shows than it was when Ford first worked at the web and small channels are increasingly vulnerable as the economic downturn starts to bite, although Five is owned by pan-European media giant RTL.

But unlike at Channel 4, where the acquisitions budget has been cut as the broadcaster switches to locally produced upscale fare, the more modestly funded Five depends on U.S. skeins to drive its schedules.

More big changes are in the cards at Five following Airey’s arrival.

On her first day at the office on Monday, she signaled job cuts when she told staff that consultants were being brought in to review how Five operates.