Sky's Richard Woolfe joins Five

Dawn Airey requites him as channel controller

LONDON -- Not for nothing is she known as the Pied Piper of British broadcasting. Fresh from hiring Jeff Ford back to RTL-owned Five as director of programming, chief executive Dawn Airey has wooed Sky One boss Richard Woolfe to the post of channel controller.

Woolfe will quit the News Corp.-backed satcaster after three years. During his tenure, he persuaded BSkyB's then-chief executive to bid more than 1 million pounds ($1.5 million) per episode for "Lost" in a bid to lure young male viewers to Sky One and oversaw a program budget of about 200 million pounds ($304 million).

At Five, which has struggled in recent years and seen its audience share decline, he is thought to have had more than twice that budget.

The move, which has sent shockwaves through the industry, will also see Ben Gale, Five's head of programs since May, leave the broadcaster.

Airey, who hired Woolfe from Living five years ago when she was head of programming at Sky, will be reunited with the executive she described as "the greatest showman in British television today."

Airey said that Woolfe will bring "energy, creativity and chutzpah" to the Five brand, adding that, although Gale had done the job under "difficult circumstances," Five needs someone with the experience of turning around channels.

Woolfe, who commissioned such shows as "Gladiators" and "Are You Smarter Than a Ten Year Old," said he is eager to put entertainment at the heart of the Five schedule and pledged to "put the channel in the spotlight."