Fussell takes the reins as of Sept. 1. However, Variety understands he has informed staff that he doesn’t plan to apply for the permanent role. An open recruitment process for the next CEO is underway, with the role now advertised and an appointment anticipated by the distributor this fall.
It was thought that Paul Dempsey, president of global distribution for BBC Studios, would take on the job, which is believed to be among the most lucrative distribution gigs in the U.K. However, Variety understands that Dempsey has not put himself forward.
BBC Studios normally sets out its annual results in July, but this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, BBC Studios and the BBC’s accounts are being signed off later, with results expected in September. The public broadcaster’s Annual Plan in May suggested the health crisis has had “a significant impact on the BBC commercial group’s revenue as a result of lower production activity, lost sales and an unprecedented fall in U.K. and global advertising markets.”
In June, Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, warned there would be no dividend from BBC Studios, which last year contributed £65 million ($81 million).
In many ways, Fussell is well placed to steer the BBC Studios ship until a successor to Davie is secured. The executive understands both production and distribution, having served as CFO at BBC Studios since its formation by merger in 2018. He previously held the same role at BBC Worldwide and at Shine.
Fussell is also director of the BBC’s Commercial Holdings Board and the chair of BBC StudioWorks. As CFO, he also has responsibility for BBC Studios property, facilities and technology. In addition, he has worked in commercial roles at Harper Collins U.K., and served as finance director of Random House U.K. Prior to this, Fussell spent a decade in BBC finance roles, including at the then BBC Production.
Sonia Magris, group finance director, will take on Fussell’s finance responsibilities in BBC Studios and become a member of the BBC Studios Executive Committee for the duration of his interim role. Fussell will remain chair of StudioWorks.
Davie said: “BBC Studios is in good hands with Tom as interim CEO, supported by the BBC Studios executive team. Tom will ensure that Studios continues to manage through the COVID-19 crisis, putting wellbeing first, while doing all it can to create and distribute distinctive and quality programmes for our audiences at home and overseas. He is hugely liked and respected, and I am grateful he will lead the team while we search for a permanent CEO.”
Fussell added: “BBC Studios has a clear plan in place to drive creative hits, build stronger services and partner with major customers. These priorities will guide us as we navigate the very real challenges of COVID-19. As interim CEO, I will be working with the full BBC Studios team to come safely out of pause and to move our business plans on. I look forward to working closely with Tim’s successor when they take over as CEO.”