BBC Studios has appointed chief finance officer Tom Fussell as CEO, more than one year after Tim Davie moved to become DG.
Fussell has held the interim post since September 2020, overseeing the producer-distributor’s global strategy.
He will lead on the development of ambitious expansion plans as Davie tasks BBC Studios with boosting commercial returns by 30% over the next five years, while also overseeing diversity and inclusion initiatives and multiple other areas of business.
“In the last year, Tom has proven himself an outstanding leader for BBC Studios, steering the company through its most difficult times with both conviction and compassion, and delivering strong results,” said Davie.
Fussell said: “BBC Studios is a core part of the BBC Group and increasingly supports across all its strategic priorities from unique high priority content and impartiality to online and, of course, commercial income. With ambition to serve both British and international audiences in new ways, my role is to work with everyone in BBC Studios to strengthen and transform all we do for the future.”
Fussell, who will also be a member of the BBC’s Executive Committee, joined then-BBC Worldwide as chief financial officer in 2016 and took the same role when the distribution outfit merged with the production outfit two years later. He is a former CFO of Shine Group and finance director for Random House in the UK.
He faces a series of challenges as the commercial outfit emerges from Covid-19.
While the public service BBC is funded by the licence fee and was therefore less damaged by the economic impacts of the pandemic, BBC Studios was hit by the downturn in the ad market and production hiatus as EBITDA fell by 17% to £151m ($205m) and returns to the BBC halved to £137m ($187m). More than 50% of BBC Studios’ shows were placed on ice for several months during the first lockdown and additional costs were incurred once they returned to production.
Speculation had been rife over the appointment process due to the length of time taken following Davie’s move in September 2020.
Fussell initially told staff he wouldn’t be applying for the role permanently and a number of senior female candidates including All3Media boss Jane Turton, former Endemol Shine Group CEO Sophie Turner Laing and now-Sky Studios chief Cécile Frot-Coutaz were understood to have turned it down in late 2020/early 2021.
Fussell was tipped as a frontrunner from around March 2021 onwards but Deadline reported in May that BBCS had gone back to the market in its search for Davie’s replacement, a move ordered by chair Richard Sharp.