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BBC TV Chief Danny Cohen to Step Down

LONDON — Danny Cohen, the BBC’s director of television, is to leave the U.K. broadcaster. He will leave the network at the end of November. Mark Linsey, controller of entertainment commissioning, will take on Cohen’s responsibilities until an appointment is made.

Cohen told Variety that due to the level of scrutiny that the BBC is under he had decided to announce his departure before deciding what his next step would be in order to avoid “upsetting” his team. He said that he was considering various offers from companies both in the U.K. and the U.S., some of which were in the broadcast TV world and others in the digital sphere. He added that the new role would be one that would allow him to have one foot firmly planted in the creative arena.

For the past eight years, Cohen has overseen the running of all BBC TV channels, as well as the production and commissioning of all of the BBC’s drama, entertainment, comedy and factual programs. He also oversaw the creative decision-making concerning BBC iPlayer, the broadcaster’s streaming service, and the BBC’s movie production arm, BBC Films.

From 2007 to 2010, he was controller of youth channel BBC Three, which grew its share of young audiences by 59% in this period. Prior to joining the BBC, he was head of Channel 4’s E4 and before that head of Channel 4 documentaries.

Tony Hall, BBC director general, said: “Danny has done an extraordinary job over the last eight years at the BBC. In a world of intense competition and choice, he has further enhanced the BBC’s reputation for quality programming that is full of ambition and creativity.”

Hall said Cohen had “led the incredible resurgence of drama” on the BBC. Hall cited scripted shows like “Wolf Hall,” “Top of the Lake,” “Peaky Blinders,” “Doctor Who” and the forthcoming “Dickensian” and “War and Peace.” Hall added that Cohen had made “an outstanding contribution to comedy and entertainment,” and led the BBC’s 2012 London Olympics’ coverage.

Hall concluded: “He is one of TV’s great talents. I know everyone who has worked with Danny has huge admiration for what he has delivered for the BBC.”

Cohen said in a statement: “In the last few weeks I’ve been approached about a number of exciting opportunities and I want to consider these in an open and transparent way.

“I’m very proud of the wide-ranging success of BBC Television under my leadership. In this period of intense competition we’ve reached 92% of U.K. audiences every week, delivered outstanding channel services and built the No.1 digital service across the television industry in the iPlayer. Throughout this time, we’ve delivered a fantastically rich slate of ground-breaking shows, thought-provoking ideas, national and international awards and global hits. We have made our audiences laugh, cry and think and have made extraordinary imprints on our national culture and the BBC’s international reputation.

“There has never been a more exciting time for television and digital media. I’m looking forward to taking up a new leadership role in this age of intense creative and technological innovation.”

“Late Late Show” host James Corden, who cut his teeth with the BBC, said in a statement: “Danny has been instrumental in my development as both a person and a performer. He has a fantastic creative mind and much as I’m sad he’s leaving the BBC, I’m excited to see what he does next.”

Tim Hincks, president of production powerhouse Endemol Shine Group, commented: “The BBC is at the top of its game creatively, and Danny has ensured that it has become a real home for great ideas, great shows and great talent: a place where the best people can do their best work.”

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