The BBC’s drama boss Ben Stephenson is joining the ranks of Bad Robot Productions.
After the better part of two months worth of rumblings and rumours, JJ Abrams’ production company has confirmed that they have poached Stephenson to lead their TV division in Los Angeles. He will be responsible for the development and production of all of the company’s television projects.
Ben Stephenson’s departure is a big blow for the BBC. The exec has been with the corporation for more than a decade, after initially joining in 2004 as Head of Development for Independent Drama. He was subsequently appointed Controller of Drama Commissioning in 2008 and in the last 7 years has been responsible for greenlight some of the corporation’s most successful dramas including The Missing, The Fall, Line Of Duty, Sherlock and Luther.
The exec has been a champion of British drama, frequently citing it as being on par if not superior to that coming out of the United States. In his tenure as Controller of Drama Commissioning he was able to attract a number of high-profile co-production partners, such as HBO, Cinemax and PBS, to a wide range of BBC dramas.
“Running BBC Drama has been an honour – it’s the most fun job in British TV. The BBC is a remarkable institution – there just isn’t a more creative, stimulating organisation to work for in the UK”, said Stephenson. “Whilst it’s a massive wrench to leave I cannot wait to begin a new adventure in LA with JJ. I have long admired his work and am thrilled to be joining the Bad Robot family. I’d like to thank all the writers, producers, directors and actors who have made the last few years so rewarding.”
With Stephenson exiting the top drama role later this year, the BBC said that they would immediately begin to look for a replacement. There is no immediate frontrunner for the £240 000 per year post, though both BBC Wales’ drama boss Faith Penhale and Head of Independent drama Poly Hill are both considered strong candidates.
“Ben has made a truly extraordinary impact on the British drama industry in the last few years”, added the BBC’s Director of Television Danny Cohen. “The quality, range and ambition of BBC drama is testament to his creative power, strategic thinking and immense passion for great writing. The BBC owes Ben a great debt of gratitude and I will miss him greatly, personally and professionally”.