Danny Cohen, the BBC’s Director of Television, is to leave the corporation in November with Mark Linsey, controller of entertainment commissioning, taking over his responsibilities on an interim basis until a replacement is found. Cohen has been at the BBC for eight years.
Cohen reportedly decided it was time to move on after the BBC’s licence fee settlement negotiations.
“After eight wonderful years at the BBC it is time for my next big challenge. BBC Television is on brilliant creative form. I feel very privileged to have led Television for the world’s finest public service broadcaster and to have worked with so many smart and talented people,” he said. “In particular, I’d like to thank my fantastic team across BBC Television, all the people who have been involved with making our programmes in the last few years, my colleagues on the Executive Board and Tony Hall, who I admire greatly.”
Cohen said that in the last few weeks, he had been approached about a number of “exciting” opportunities and wanted to consider these in an open and transparent way. “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,” he added.
Director general Tony Hall added that Cohen had done an “extraordinary” job during his tenure, first as BBC3 controller, before being appointed controller of BBC1 in 2010 and director of television in 2013.
“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 commented.
Under Cohen’s leadership, BBC Television has been enjoying a golden period of hit shows and multiple awards. In the last few days, BBC One enjoyed Super Wednesday, with 15 million people tuning in to The Great British Bake-Off and 8 million viewers watching the finale of new drama Doctor Foster. Last year, BBC Television reached 92 per cent of the UK population making it the most successful UK network of Channels. In the first quarter of this year, the BBC’s main network – BBC One – delivered its best start to the year in a decade with a prime-time audience share of 25.2 per cent.
Hit shows that Cohen has overseen at the BBC include Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, EastEnders, Sherlock, Happy Valley, JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, Luther, Poldark, Miranda, Peter Kay’s Car Share, Wolf Hall, Top of The Lake, The Honourable Woman, Peaky Blinders, Call The Midwife, The Apprentice, The Voice, Match of the Day, Being Human, Last Tango In Halifax, The Wrong Mans, Our War, BBC One’s 2012 London Olympics’ coverage and The Graham Norton Show.
The BBC has won dozens of Awards under Cohen’s leadership. Examples include: in 2015, BBC Television won 11 BAFTAs: more than any other broadcaster; in 2015, the BBC won 18 out of 28 Awards at the Royal Television Society Awards; in 2015, the BBC’s main network, BBC One, was named Channel of the Year at the Edinburgh Television Festival.
Cohen is widely recognised for leading on digital change, innovation and risk-taking in the media industry. He is the creative leader for the iPlayer: the BBC’s online content platform which is established as the European broadcast industry’s most successful digital platform and now accounts for over 60 per cent of the viewing of all UK broadcasting industry content. Most recently, Cohen has led the plans to disrupt the BBC’s current model and transform BBC Three in to an online service for young audiences.
Cohen has a strong reputation for delivering hits and building powerful brands for 16-34 audiences. At digital station BBC Three, Cohen grew the Channel’s 16-34 audience by 59 per cent in three years, with the Channel being awarded Digital Channel of the Year in two out of three years at the Edinburgh Television Festival. His commissions for the Channel included Being Human, Our War, Blood Sweat and Takeaways, Him and Her and Russell Howard’s Good News.
Prior to joining the BBC, Danny was Head of E4 and before that Head of Channel 4 Documentaries. His commissions included Skins, The Inbetweeners, Fonejacker, Supernanny and the documentary strand Cutting Edge.
Cohen was appointed the youngest ever Director of BBC Television at the age of 39 and prior to that he was appointed the youngest ever Controller of BBC One at the age of 36. He received a Double First in English Literature from Oxford University.
James Corden said ‘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.’
Claudia Winkleman said: ‘I have worked with Danny for eight years and have loved every minute. He’s smart, dedicated and extremely kind to everyone on the team. He has been a brilliant creative leader of BBC Television. We’ll miss him enormously. I wish him all the luck in the world.’
Tim Hincks, President of Endemol Shine Group said: ‘The BBC is loved first and foremost because of the range and quality of its programmes and Danny’s key success has been ensuring that creativity has flourished and thrived in recent years. The BBC is at the top of its game creatively and Danny has ensured that the BBC has become a real home for great ideas, great shows and great talent: a place where the best people can do their best work. There has been no more passionate advocate of what the BBC stands for and he will be missed both inside the BBC and in the wider UK creative industries.’