×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

David Lyle, Veteran Executive and Reality TV Champion, Dies at 67

David Lyle, a TV veteran who championed unscripted TV and headed National Geographic Channels and Fox Reality Channel, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer. He was 67.

After working in TV in Australia and in London, Lyle came to Los Angeles in 2001 as head of FremantleMedia North America where he helped launch “American Idol” on Fox. He most recently served as president of Pact US, an advocacy org for unscripted TV producers.

Earlier this year, Lyle helped steer the merger of Pact US with the rival Nonfiction Producers Association, creating NPACT. The organization reps most of the largest unscripted TV production companies.

David Lyle was one of the few television executives who thrived on both a creative and business level,” said Howard T. Owens, co-CEO of Propagate Content, who worked with Lyle at Nat Geo. “He was one of the kindest, most fun, and caring people I’ve ever known. He always had time to mentor people and help others out in their careers.”

A native of Sydney, Lyle was a lively presence with a hearty laugh. He brought great competitive zeal to his work and didn’t shy away from taking on provocative industry issues in public forums. Last year, he penned a column for Variety addressing the conflicts that independent producers were facing amid the growth of cable programming giants.

“David Lyle was a rare breed, in our industry and in the world. A true bon vivant, he brought light and life into every room, along with a passion for the creatives of this business,” said John Ford, general manager of NPACT. “We will all miss David’s maverick mettle, along with his vitality, brilliant insights and humor.”

Lyle worked as a geologist and as a high school chemistry teacher in Australia before breaking into television as a writer and producer for Australia’s ABC and Ten networks. By the late 1980s, he was working at Nine network as an executive producer and program creator. He advance to head of development and acquisitions for Nine, where he worked on local renditions of such popular formats as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Trading Spaces.”

Lyle moved from Australia to Pearson Television in the U.K. to serve as head of worldwide development and acquisitions. That post led him to relocate in 2001 to Los Angeles, where he served as president of entertainment for FremantleMedia North America until 2004. During that period, the unit worked with Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment to turn Fox’s “American Idol” into the most-watched series in primetime.

After Fremantle, Lyle was recruited by Fox to launch an international sales venture for the company’s reality TV formats. But he quickly shifted to launching the Fox Reality Channel cabler in 2005. He had a five-year run at the helm of the channel, which was profitable but ultimately had a hard time gaining widespread distribution. It was transformed into Nat Geo Wild in early 2010.

Fox Reality was known for its embrace of raunchy fare including “My Bare Lady,” “Battle of the Bods” and “Seducing City.” Lyle was unabashed in defending the channel’s programming.

After Fox Reality shuttered, Lyle became head of National Geographic Channels, a joint venture of Fox and the National Geographic Society. He ran the group from 2011 through 2014 and launched such franchises as “Wicked Tuna” and “Life Below Zero” and helped boost the group’s earnings. But some of the programs Lyle backed were seen as too far afield from Nat Geo’s mission. He was succeeded in 2014 by marketing chief Courteney Monroe.

Lyle was a natural choice to launch the Pact US organization, an offshoot of the U.K.’s powerful Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, in 2015. He was well-known and well-regarded by many of the biggest names in unscripted TV. In 2000, he was also among the co-founders of the Format Recognition and Protection Association, which aims to protect producers against unauthorized copying of proprietary TV formats.

“David was a champion for the underdog creators, a passionate advocate for formats and a true believer who inspired countless producers, format creators and channels the world over,” said producer Phil Gurin, who is co-chairman of FRAPA. “He was a dear friend, confidante, raconteur and legend. He shall be missed here, there and everywhere — especially at the bar at the Carlton Hotel with a dram in his hand, a smile on his face and a story in his heart.”

Lyle’s survivors include his wife, Janne, and three children.

More TV

  • Disney Fox Takeover Placeholder

    Disney, Fox Employees Grapple With Day One Transition on Two Hollywood Lots

    What kind of a boss will Disney be? That’s a question facing employees at 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, National Geographic Partners, FX Networks, and other assorted parts of Rupert Murdoch’s former media empire. Wednesday was their first full day as staffers of the Walt Disney Co. and the initial moves have done little to [...]

  • 20th Century Fox TV to Adapt

    20th Century Fox TV to Adapt Esi Edugyan Novel 'Washington Black' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Twentieth Television, in conjunction with Sterling K. Brown’s Indian Meadows Productions, Anthony Hemingway Productions and The Gotham Group, has won an intense bidding war for the rights to bring Esi Edugyan’s award-winning novel “Washington Black” to the small screen, Variety has learned exclusively. The novel will be adapted for into a limited series for TV by [...]

  • Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime

    Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime Emmy Nomination

    Facebook is now in the awards hunt: Its popular original series “Red Table Talk” hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith was nominated for a 2019 Daytime Emmy. It appears to be the first-ever Daytime Emmy Awards nomination for a Facebook-funded show, although a company rep was unable to confirm that. “Red Table Talk” is nominated in [...]

  • pharrell brain child show

    Pharrell Teams Up With Atomic Entertainment to Push 'Edu-Tainment' for Kids of Color

    Pharrell Williams may best be known as a Grammy-winning musician, but the 45-year-old is singing a different tune these days as the executive producer of “Brainchild,” a new Netflix series that teaches kids about science, technology, and current events. Co-created by Atomic Entertainment, the show is a spinoff of the New York-based production company’s “Brain [...]

  • Issa Rae Michael B. Jordan Actors

    Variety's 'Actors on Actors' Earns Daytime Emmy Nomination

    Variety has earned another Emmy nomination for its “Actors on Actors” series, but the first at the Daytime Emmy Awards. The PBS SoCal series brings together two actors for a candid conversation about their recent roles and thoughts on Hollywood. The nominated season includes interviews with actors promoting their TV projects including: Bill Hader (“Barry”) with [...]

  • 'Call My Agent!' Wins France's Export

    'Call My Agent!' Wins France's Export Prize; Lincoln TV Wins Named Best French Fiction Producer

    “Call My Agent!,” the hit comedy series whose second season recently pulled top ratings on France’s public broadcaster France Televisions and has traveled widely, won the export prize during the French Television Producer Awards gala ceremony organized by Procirep and TV France International. Although “Call My Agent!” was picked up by Netflix for most markets, [...]

  • Hulu Announces 'Castle Rock' Season 2

    Hulu Announces 'Castle Rock' Season 2 Cast, Led by Lizzy Caplan

    Hulu has announced the star-studded cast for season two of “Castle Rock,” which will be led by Tim Robbins, “Masters of Sex” actress Lizzy Caplan, and “Eighth Grade” standout Elsie Fisher. Season two will center around Annie Wilkes, Stephen King’s nurse from hell, who gets waylaid in the town of Castle Rock as a feud between [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content