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Sky drama head moves to Netflix

Sky UK’s head of drama Anne Mensah is to exit the company for Netflix and will be succeeded by her deputy Cameron Roach.

Mensah will join Netflix as VP of content where she will lead the scripted series content team focused on UK productions, Netflix has confirmed.

Based in London, she will oversee the team that develops and creates UK-based original series for the global entertainment service, and will report to Cindy Holland, VP of original content for Netflix. Mensah is expected to start sometime in 2019.

Her move to Netflix has been rumoured for several months, as the streaming giant was understood to have approached a number of the drama heads from UK broadcasters. In an unusual move, Netflix announced Mensah’s appointment – marking a departure from its strategy to date within the UK.

It is believed that Mensah was waiting for the Comcast/Sky deal to close before stepping down from Sky, and collecting a considerable earn-out.

The streaming giant has courted a number of British execs, most recently hiring Channel 4 fact ent commissioner Lucy Leveugle for an unscripted role within the London office, as revealed by TBI last month.

Netflix first began investing in UK scripted originals in 2015 with projects such as Left Bank’s The Crown. In 2018, close to 40 UK-based projects are underway between originals and co-productions.

Originals include Black Mirror; the upcoming series Sex Education, filmed in Wales; a second season of Jack Whitehall: Travels with my Father; and new projects with Ricky Gervais, Idris Elba, Julian Fellowes and Katherine Ryan. Original films include Scottish epic Outlaw King and Shakespearean-inspired The King. Documentary series include Our Planet, voiced by Sir David Attenborough.

Collaborations with UK broadcasters include Black Earth Rising (BBC Two), Bodyguard (BBC One), Kiss Me First (Channel 4), Marcella (ITV), Collateral (BBC Two), Giri/Haji (BBC One), Wanderlust (BBC One) and Watership Down (BBC One).

Netflix is also a significant investor in licensed UK content including titles like Peaky Blinders (BBC Two), The Great British Baking Show (Channel 4) and Happy Valley (BBC One).

Netflix’s Holland said: “Throughout her career, Anne has celebrated creative freedom, with deep passion for finding and nurturing storytelling you can’t find anywhere else. The UK has some of the best television in the world and our members love it, both in the UK and around the globe. I’m delighted that Anne is joining our team to lead our continued commitment to and investment in UK talent and programming.”

Sky departure 

News of Mensah’s departure was revealed by Sky’s content boss Gary Davey, who sent a memo to staff on Monday (11 November). Roach will now become acting head of drama and report to Davey, according to the memo.

Meanwhile, Mensah will retain a consultancy role with the business for a “period of time”. The exec is known for spearheading Sky’s push into drama with popular commissions such Patrick MelroseFortitudeBritannia, Riviera (pictured) and Tin Star.

“We are enormously proud of the quality and momentum we have achieved in our drama slate, thanks in no small part to Anne’s strong leadership and impeccable taste,” Davey’s internal memo said.

“Anne is respected by her peers across the creative community worldwide. I am grateful for Anne’s vision and determination and I will miss our many conversations about telling great stories on TV. We all thank Anne for her important contribution to Sky’s original-content journey and wish her well in her next adventures.”

Mensah said: “The last seven years at Sky have been some of the most inspirational and exciting of my working life.

“I am so proud of what the Sky Drama team, past and present, have achieved – from The Smoke to Fortitude and from Britannia to Save Me and Melrose. I’d particularly like to thank Gary Davey, Stephen van Rooyen and Jeremy Darroch for their unwavering support even in the face of my most unbridled enthusiasms! It’s been amazing and so much fun.”

The news arrives shortly after Comcast completed a US$40bn acquisition of Sky in October. A recent town hall presentation chaired by Comcast boss Brian Roberts saw the him reassure staff that no major cuts were planned for the company in the near future.