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Former Comedy Central Exec Appointed General Manager of TV Network

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NEW YORK ( -- Three months into his tenure as president-CEO of BBC America, Bill Hilary yesterday announced sweeping changes to the network, including new
BBC America's two new top executives are both from Comedy Central.
programming, a new general manager and relocation of its offices to New York.

Comedy Central duo
Mr. Hilary, the former executive vice president and general manager of Viacom's Comedy Central, said former Comedy Central's senior vice president for programming, Kathryn Mitchell, was hired as BBC America's general manager.

He said the network will introduce original programming into the current lineup of BBC imports and is relocating the network's operations from Bethesda, Md., to New York.

Closer to sales team
The April relocation of BBC America, distributed by Discovery Networks, will allow the network to share a site with BBC Worldwide Americas, a subsidiary of the U.K.-based BBC, and also be closer to the New York-based Discovery sales team responsible for selling its advertising.

Mr. Hilary said he will double the cable and satellite TV network's programming budget to enable BBC America to create its own programs and increase the number of shows it co-produces with partners such as BBC, Channel 4 and ITV.

Comedy Central's best shows
Speaking of Ms. Mitchell at yesterday's press conference, Mr. Hilary said "I thought we had a very successful team at Comedy Central," noting that that network's ratings were up 24% in 2004. Mr. Hilary and Ms. Mitchell led teams that developed much of Comedy Central's popular original programming, including The Chappelle Show, Insomniac and Reno 911. Mr. Hilary also credits Ms. Mitchell for the acquisition of the cultural phenomenon Blue Collar Comedy. At BBC America, they will work to push similar boundaries in original-scripted comedies and dramas.

"We want to make sure that what we're doing is at the forefront," Mr. Hilary said, crediting an overabundance of makeover reality shows to the network's declining ratings over the past two-and-a-half years.

New drama 'Wire in the Blood'
"If there's already a certain type of show on one of the major networks, its shouldn't be on BBC America at the same time." He points to a new drama coming out in April that BBC America co-produced with ITV called Wire in the Blood, in which a psychoanalyst works with police to find serial killers by developing phone relationships with the killers.

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