After a months long search to replace Poly Hill, the BBC has poached Channel 4’s Head of Drama Piers Wenger to serve as their new Controller of Drama Commissioning, TVWise has learned.
Wenger, who will take up post in the Autumn, has been with Channel 4 since 2012 and in his four-year stint at the broadcaster was responsible for commissioning such dramas as Indian Summers, No Offence and the co-production Humans, This is England 90, Southcliffe, National Treasure and Peter Kosminsky’s upcoming ISIS drama.. This brings Wenger back to the BBC fold after he previously served as Head of Drama for BBC Wales.
“I have had an unforgettable and brilliant time at Channel 4 and it is with real sadness that I am saying goodbye”, Piers Wenger said in a statement. “But the scope and scale of BBC Drama make this an irresistible challenge and I could not be more excited about joining the talented team there and for the new relationships and creative adventures which lie ahead of me at the BBC.”
Controller of Drama Commissioning is a plum role in the industry and the exec in place is responsible for more than 450 hours of drama across the BBC. Additionally, thanks to the nature of how the BBC is funded, the role brings with it a large budget and broad freedom to commission, especially in areas where commercial players might be wary to tread. Wenger’s predecessor Poly Hill was only in post for a year before exiting for a position at ITV, but Ben Stephenson before her served as Controller for seven years and commissioned a wide range of award winning dramas.
“Piers is a brilliant creative leader with great taste and a passion for writing. He has a breadth of experience and knowledge of the global industry, as well as a real understanding of audiences”, added Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s Controller of TV Channels and iPlayer. “BBC Drama is in exceptional form and I’m thrilled that Piers will continue to build on this and enhance our world-class reputation. I’m really excited by his ideas and vision and I’m looking forward to working with him and leading BBC drama to future success.”
Over at Channel 4, the broadcaster has tapped Wenger’s number two, Deputy Head of Drama Beth Willis, to succeed him as their Head of Drama when he departs later this year. As Willis is due to go on maternity leave this Summer, C4’s Head of Comedy Phil Clark will temporarily assume the position of Head Of Scripted, overseeing both Comedy and Drama, until Willis’ return.
“I’ve loved working with Piers. He’s been an exceptional head of drama, delivering award winning shows with record breaking audiences. It’s a fitting tribute to what he has achieved at 4 that he has been poached for the biggest job in drama commissioning”, said Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer Jay Hunt. “Beth is a passionate programme maker and a superlative commissioner. She has played a critical part in Channel 4’s success and I am looking forward to working with her on the next phase of great drama at 4”
Like Wenger, Beth Willis has been at Channel 4 since 2012, having served as the number two in the drama department for the past four years. In her time at the broadcaster she has worked on such dramas as Humans, No Offence, Indian Summers, Crazy Face, Kiss Me First, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Prior to joining Channel 4, Willis served as an executive producer at both the BBC and Kudos Film & Television.
“I’m honoured and excited to be given this opportunity to usher in the next wave of ambitious, distinctive and entertaining dramas to the channel”, Willis said. “I’m passionate about finding brilliant writers and producers – and encouraging them to do what they do best.”