BBC3 Chief Exits For 'Game of Thrones' U.K. Home


The public broadcaster's Zai Bennett is joining satellite pay-TV giant BSkyB's Sky Atlantic as BBC plans switching the third channel to an online only service.


LONDON – BBC3 controller Zai Bennett is leaving to run satellite pay-TV giant BSkyB's Sky Atlantic, the British home of Game of Thrones and Mad Men.

Bennett will exit the public broadcaster as BBC3 faces a future of being an online service only, a move the BBC Trust is mulling as part of cost-cutting proposals made by the corporation.

Bennett joined the BBC from U.K. commercial rival ITV three years ago to spearhead the channel's push for young viewers and alternative content.

The BBC's mooted plan to pull BBC3 from the digital airwaves and push it online is currently being considered as part of a strategy by the BBC to save $83.6 million (£50 million) a year coupled with plans to plough $50 million ($30 million) of the cost-cuts into flagship channel BBC1 drama.

The BBC said Bennett will exit the building later this year to join BSkyB as director of Sky Atlantic – the UK home of HBO's output, as well as original commissions including The Tunnel.

Bennett will report to Sky director of entertainment channels Stuart Murphy, a man who also boasts BBC3 experience having been the channel's first ever controller after launch in 2003.

Bennett said he had enjoyed working at BBC3 "but this felt like an opportunity I couldn't turn down."

He trumpeted leaving the BBC3 "on top form with its highest ever viewing share and six nominations at this year's [TV] Baftas."

The BBC director of television Danny Cohen said: "Zai has been a fantastic controller of BBC3 and has led the channel to great success, in terms of quality, awards and audience performance."