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ITV Names Carolyn McCall as New CEO; First Woman in the Post

ITV, Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, has appointed Carolyn McCall as its new CEO, filling the role vacated by Adam Crozier.

McCall, currently the head of budget airline EasyJet, will take up her new job on Jan. 8, 2018. She will be the first woman in the role.

“I’m really pleased to be joining ITV. It is a fantastic company in a dynamic and stimulating sector,” McCall said in a statement Monday. “I am looking forward to getting to know all of the people at ITV and helping it make the most of the amazing opportunities that it has in the future.”

ITV Chairman Peter Bazalgette has been running the company in tandem with finance chief Ian Griffiths since Crozier exited at the end of June. Crozier officially announced his decision to leave in May, but his departure had been rumored for months, with reports circulating late last year that the broadcaster had called in recruiters to look for a successor. Bazalgette insisted after Crozier’s announcement that a well-developed succession plan was in place.

Bazalgette, a former Endemol executive, added: “In a very impressive field of high-caliber candidates, Carolyn stood out for her track record in media, experience of an international operation, clear strategic acumen and strong record of delivering value to shareholders. I’m delighted we’ll be working together at ITV.”

McCall comes from EasyJet, the U.K.-based budget airline she joined in 2010. Like ITV, the airline is a FTSE 100 company, and McCall is one of a handful of female CEOs among these elite firms. Her appointment marks the first time ITV has had a female chief executive. The news follows that of Alex Mahon joining Channel 4, putting female leaders at the helm of Britain’s two largest commercial broadcasters. The new ITV chief also has media experience, having been CEO of Guardian Newspapers and then the wider Guardian Media Group.

Announcing her appointment, ITV said that during McCall’s tenure at EasyJet, “she brought a customer-focused approach to the business and redefined what passengers now expect from short-haul flights. EasyJet’s innovative approach has driven both passenger loyalty and growth and delivered sustained success for EasyJet’s shareholders.”

McCall had emerged as the front-runner for the ITV job in recent days, but reports said that disagreements about her pay package were holding up her appointment. ITV said Monday that, as CEO, McCall will receive a basic salary of £900,000 ($1.17 million) and a pension allowance of 15% of salary. She will also be eligible for an annual bonus of up to 180% of her salary, or £1.62 million ($2.1 million), and to participate in a long-term incentive plan worth up to 265% of salary.

McCall joins ITV as speculation about the broadcaster’s ownership continues. John Malone’s Liberty Global is already a large shareholder and has repeatedly been mentioned as a possible buyer.

Crozier built the broadcaster’s international business during his seven-year tenure at ITV as part of a successful turnaround strategy. A key component of the strategy was buying production companies, notably in the U.S., where its acquisitions included Leftfield Pictures, Gurney and Diga. Investors approved of the plan, and ITV’s share price went up during Crozier’s reign.

Analysts were clear about the size of the task ahead. “Carolyn McCall will be faced with a tricky balancing act when she joins ITV,” said Adam Thomas, lead analyst, global TV markets, at research house Ovum. “Traditional network TV is still the place to be for advertisers looking to reach a mass audience, so that side of the business needs to be nurtured and protected. But she needs to counter-balance that with a more effective presence for ITV in the progressively important world of digital video.”

Thomas added: “Her experience at the Guardian means she will be all too aware of the difficulties that traditional media are facing from online alternatives, but the incessant decline of ad revenues that is blighting the newspaper sector provides a reality check on the size of the task that faces her at ITV.”

ITV’s new chief comes in amid a tumultuous period for Britain’s big commercial networks. Both ITV and Channel 4 are undergoing changes at the top. Channel 4 has appointed Alex Mahon to succeed David Abraham as its new CEO. She starts in September, but the broadcaster is still seeking a head of programming after Jay Hunt’s resignation.

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