Exclusive: BBC Studios’ former Africa chief lands at Britbox in US

BBC Studios’ former chief in Africa Joel Churcher has taken up a new role at North American streamer Britbox.

Churcher becomes VP of partnerships and marketing at Britbox, reporting into the streamer’s president Soumya Sriraman.

He has relocated from Johannesburg to New York City for the role, with a remit that includes establishing brand, media and marketing partnerships to expand the BBCS and ITV joint venture streaming service.

Britbox’s North American service, not to be confused with the UK-focused service of the same name, recently bolstered its offer after striking deals with Endemol Shine International and Kew Media Distribution, which saw it add shows such as Line Of Duty and Pointless to its slate ion the US and Canada.

The streamer also looks set to be rolled out elsewhere, with BBCS distribution chief Paul Dempsey admitting at MIPCOM that there were more markets where the UK-skewing service could work.

Joel Churcher

Churcher has been VP and general manager for BBCS in Africa since 2014, overseeing strategy and business development across the continent, as well as having responsibility for finished programmes, format sales and production.

During his tenure, local versions of Come Dine With Me South Africa and The Great South African Bake Off (pictured) were commissioned for BBC Brit and BBC Lifestyle, while he also oversaw channel brands including drama-skewing BBC First, factual-focused BBC Earth, and kids offering CBeebies.

Revamped global structure

Churcher’s departure from Africa came ahead of a major reshuffle of BBCS’ operations, which saw the company bringing its international sales and distribution business into a single global group headed up by long-serving exec Paul Dempsey, who relocated to the US as part of the revamp.

The company also shifted from a geographical management structure in Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMA) to focus on specialist lines of business, with a new team of London-based SVP’s appointed as part of the overhaul.

The Western Europe and CEMA division was then merged earlier this year, with Nick Percy taking control as EVP for EMEA. The next move of Grant Welland, the former chief of Western Europe, is not yet known.

Jon Penn

Other changes made this week have seen execs promoted in Asia-Pacific. Cheryl Png becomes VP of distribution for South-East Asia, while Stanley Fernandes has been named VP of distribution for South Asia. Both report into Ryan Shiotani, SVP and general manager for BBCS South and South-East Asia.

Shiotani, in turn, reports into Jon Penn, EVP of BBC Studios APAC, as part of the recently formed Asia-Pacific (APAC) regional business, which incorporates Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Shiotani works alongside Fiona Lang, who was promoted to GM for Australia and New Zealand last year.

Former EVP of Asia, David Weiland, stepped down from his position last year to take on a new globally-facing role focused on the company’s working culture.

BBCS, which is preparing for its annual Showcase sales extravaganza next week in the UK city of Liverpool, remains in the hunt for a president of its Americas division following Ann Sarnoff’s move to Warner Bros last year.