The BBC is preparing to expand in America – and hopefully improve its image.
It has appointed, for the first time, someone to handle all its TV operations in the US, and it is not a Brit but an American. He is Garth Ancier, a former top executive at three big American networks, Fox, NBC and Warner Brothers.
As president of BBC Worldwide America, he will oversee the BBC America cable channel, BBC video sales and digital programming divisions in the US, plus the BBC’s TV production unit in Los Angeles.
The appointment is seen as an effort by the BBC to enhance its image in the US – which despite some big successes and successful spin-off shows has never had the recognition that many feel it deserves.
In recent years, BBC America’s own shows such as The Office, Viva Blackpool and Footballers' Wives have had enthusiastic reviews. Spin-offs such as Dancing with The Stars, which runs on ABC, and Grease: You're The One That I Want on NBC have been acclaimed – but few viewers in the US realise they were originally a BBC product. The new head man, it is hoped, will change that. He told the New York Times that network interest in BBC programmes has never been higher.
He is regarded as one of the most experienced Americans in at least three fields in which the BBC is interested these days: network sales, cable programming and Internet-based programme delivery. It will also be his job to change the current image of the BBC from “high quality – but stuffy”.