BBC TV Boss Danny Cohen to Leave U.K. Public Broadcaster

Charlie Gray

"After eight wonderful years at the BBC, it is time for my next big challenge," he says.

The BBC said Tuesday that Danny Cohen, director of television, will leave the U.K. public broadcaster at the end of November to pursue a new leadership challenge.

Said Cohen: "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. In particular, I'd like to thank my fantastic team across BBC Television, all the people who have been involved with making our programs in the last few years, my colleagues on the executive board and [director general] Tony Hall, who I admire greatly."

He explained: "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."

Cohen, 41, added: "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 percent of U.K. audiences every week, delivered outstanding channel services and built the number one digital service across the television industry in the BBC iPlayer. Throughout this time, we've delivered a fantastically rich slate of groundbreaking 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."

He concluded: "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."

Hall 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."

Added Hall: "Danny has led the incredible resurgence of drama on the BBC, having commissioned or overseen shows like Happy Valley, Poldark, Last Tango in Halifax, Wolf Hall, Top of the Lake, Peaky Blinders, Doctor Who and the forthcoming Dickensian and War and Peace."

He 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. I want to wish him well for the future."

It wasn't immediately clear what kind of jobs Cohen has been approached about, but he has been understood to be on the wish lists of both U.K. and U.S. companies.

Mark Linsey, controller of entertainment commissioning, will take on Cohen's responsibilities at the BBC until a full-time successor is named.

Cohen became director of BBC Television in early 2013. He has been responsible for all of the BBC's TV networks and BBC Productions, Europe's largest television production group. Before that, he was controller of its flagship channel BBC One, becoming the youngest person to be appointed as its head. In 2012, BBC One had a record-breaking year with its largest-ever growth in peak audience share and its first all-hours audience share gain on record.

In 2015, BBC Television won 11 BAFTA awards, more than any other network, and won 18 out of 28 awards at the Royal Television Society Awards.

From 2007 to 2010, Cohen was controller of BBC Three. His commissions for the channel included Being Human, Our War and Him and Her, among others. Prior to joining the BBC, he was head of E4 and before that head of channel 4 documentaries. His commissions included Skins, The Inbetweeners, Fonejacker and Supernanny.

Talent on Tuesday also reacted to his departure. James Corden, who worked on BBC Three show Gavin & Stacey, was quoted by The Guardian as saying: "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."