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BBC America Taps Herb Scannell as New President

Former Nickelodeon President Takes Over at Pivotal Moment for Network

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- The BBC has named former Nickelodeon President Herb Scannell to take over BBC Worldwide America, filling the position left vacant with the late-March departure of Garth Ancier.

Mr. Scannell, who most recently served as CEO of online-video company Next New Networks, joins BBC America at a pivotal time for BBC Worldwide America. It achieved record profit and ratings in 2009 on the strength of U.K. sci-fi drama "Doctor Who," as well as the highly trafficked BBC.com, which reaches 17 million monthly unique users domestically, and the BBC iPhone app, which consistently ranks as a top 10 news app.

Herb Scannell
Herb Scannell
Yet, in the larger ad marketplace, it's still a tiny player. BBC America grossed about $58 million in measured ad spending in 2009, according to Kantar Media, nearly a tenth of the ad dollars banked by former corporate sibling Discovery Channel during the same time period. In the Nielsen ratings , it ranked No. 71 during April among total viewers. The channel is also distributed in 67 million homes, about 3 million shy of the distribution typically needed to be among most major marketers' top consideration sets.

That's why one of Mr. Scannell's first priorities will be to pitch BBC America's highly valuable viewers to the marketplace going into the upfront, when commercial airtime is bought and sold.

"We have a cable channel that has, if not the most affluent, one of the top two or three most affluent audiences on television," he said. "But for the advertising business, we want to get to full distribution and let the brand shine a bit," he said. "I come from a place at MTV Networks where the branding was always in place, then we started getting the pieces together."

And with access to the BBC's full library of original content, Mr. Scannell argued that the channel airs more original programming than most of its peers. In his new role, he would like to add more made-in-America series to the U.K.-heavy lineup, both on-air and potentially online as befits his recent history at Next New Networks.

"Coming from a big-media background and then getting into a startup, I got a lot of first-hand knowledge about the way things are working on the internet," he said. "This company has a lot of great assets."

The U.K. BBC, for example, recently launched an online player with full access to its digital library. "So there's an opportunity to think about how that might play in America," Mr. Scannell said.

BBC Worldwide Productions also has its hand in a lot of non-BBC America programming events, from ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" to Discovery's "Life" miniseries, and the company is expected to take an even more hands-on role in the future distribution of its co-productions.

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