BBC Studios CEO Tim Davie Emerging As Candidate To Beat In Race To Become BBC Director General

EXCLUSIVE: BBC Studios CEO Tim Davie is increasingly being talked about as the candidate to beat in the race to replace Tony Hall as director general of the BBC.

Deadline has spoken to several sources familiar with the recruitment process and a consensus is emerging around Davie as the frontrunner, even though the BBC is some way off crowning a successor to Hall.

Deadline hears that BBC chairman Sir David Clementi is yet to begin formal interviews for the role, but sources say the field of candidates has narrowed further in recent days and Davie is confident in his credentials.

Three other executives continue to be linked to the director general post with varying degrees of certainty: BBC director of content Charlotte Moore, Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon and All3Media CEO Jane Turton.

Some sources have suggested that Moore is not in the running, but others are not so sure, viewing her as the strongest internal candidate next to Davie. Moore is known for keeping her cards close to her chest when it comes to her personal ambitions. She was not seen as the favorite to become BBC One controller in 2013, but ultimately landed the job.

Channel 4’s Mahon has repeatedly declined to rule herself out of the recruitment process, including in a recent interview with Variety. But this was before Channel 4 came under intense pressure from the coronavirus crisis, with the broadcaster having to find £245M ($305M) of savings after a 50% drop in advertising revenue.

Turton was approached by BBC headhunters and is a highly-respected industry figure. A number of sources have suggested she is open to a new challenge after more than five years answering to All3Media’s U.S. shareholders Discovery and Liberty Global.

One person who will not be taking part in the formal process to replace Hall is Jay Hunt, Apple’s creative director of worldwide video. After being heavily linked with the BBC, Deadline understands that the former Channel 4 chief creative officer has told her Apple bosses that she is staying put.

She joins a long list of others who have ruled themselves out of the process. These include Carolyn Fairbairn, the Confederation of British Industry director general, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall, and BBC radio boss James Purnell.

There remains the possibility of a dark horse contender — outgoing Dow Jones chief executive William Lewis was mooted as a potential candidate this week — but most industry sources keep pointing out how thin the field is. “Nobody really wants it apart from Tim,” said one senior figure.

Davie has been in charge of BBC Studios for eight years and has overseen a key piece of work in transforming the business into an integrated producer and distributor. Davie has also done the director general job before, albeit on a temporary basis in 2012, when George Entwistle resigned 54 days into the role after being engulfed in the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.

If successful he would likely have to take a pay cut to secure the promotion because BBC Studios operates as a commercial entity, while the BBC is licence fee funded. His total pay was £642,000 last year, while Hall took home £450,000.

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