MEDIA HEADLINER: Scheduling taskmaster aims to outfox the large TV stations. David Bergg is keeping his plans for Sky One’s future secret

By ELEANOR TRICKETT, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 17 December 1999 12:00AM

Though it would be rude to compare Sky One’s new general manager, David Bergg, to a horse, his departure from his last half-dozen or so jobs has left a series of stable doors swinging on their hinges.

Though it would be rude to compare Sky One’s new general manager,

David Bergg, to a horse, his departure from his last half-dozen or so

jobs has left a series of stable doors swinging on their hinges.



But Bergg is not so much skittish as hungry for new challenges. When

you’ve been part of the successful team which turned ITV around

(alongside David Liddiment and Richard Eyre) and been on the launch team

for both Channel 5 and GMTV, the offer of running your own channel is

one that cannot be refused.



Indeed, in defence of his five job changes in the past six years, Bergg

merely explains: ’I’ve just been very lucky to have had phone calls from

the right people offering me great jobs at the right time.’ Nick

Milligan, the sales director of Channel 5, confirms this: ’David has not

sought these appointments, he’s been headhunted because he’s damn good.

He did a great job for us, and I’m sure he will do for Sky.’



A profile of Bergg in a magazine earlier this year began by quoting a

press officer at ITV, where he was at the time. ’He won’t talk to you,’

she warned the journalist.



Which is why Campaign thought it had scored such a coup when Bergg’s PA

confirmed that he’d be ’delighted’ to talk about his new role. However,

Bergg makes no bones about what he will, and won’t, talk about. His lips

are tightly sealed about his plans for Sky One. ’As I’m still in

negotiation with ITV, I don’t want to splurge into saying what I’m going

to do when I get to Sky,’ he says, causing me to throw the rest of my

questions into the nearest bin.



’I’m very aware of the sensibilities, and I know all the secrets here.’

However, he does offer a second interview once he’s started, adding:

’Although I don’t want to be presumptuous that you would want to give up

your valuable time.’



This is the man they call the Prince of Darkness? Frankly, I’m

disappointed.



’If you like, I could don my cloak, put my arm up at a right angle and

swish darkly out of the room,’ he offers.



So why has this Chelsea-supporting pussycat been given such a diabolical

nickname? ’It’s my determination to keep my scheduling plans secret,’ he

says, which is surely the secret of his success.



Instead, we talk about his job-packed background. His first media job

was at Air Services, selling airtime for independent local radio

stations.



This grotty world as an ILR spot-flogger clearly damaged him. After a

short time there, he made the only career move that could possibly have

taken him down an evolutionary step: he became a PE teacher. His move

back into media in 1987 was the beginning of a stellar career, showing

genuine scheduling genius, constantly outwitting competitors.



It must be tough to pick a highlight from so many jobs, but Bergg has a

go. ’In terms of achievement, ITV was my best job,’ he declares, after

much pondering. ’The main difference in coming to ITV from BBC1 was that

at BBC1 I had the ITV schedule in front of me. It’s personally very

satisfying to have been successful at ITV without having had the BBC1

schedule in front of me.’



It was at ITV, however, that he had advertisers and media agencies up in

arms at his last-minute schedule changes, which were planned to fox the

opposition (they did).



But was he as unpopular at the time as people made out? ’The stories

were a little overblown,’ he shrugs. ’There’s always the same three or

four people who come up with the same old quotes. I acknowledge that you

cannot please all the people all the time, but there’s a fine line

between that and having the competitive edge.’



The move to Sky One means that rather than working closely with the

people running the channel, he’ll be running the show himself. Who

knows? The responsibility might actually persuade him to stay for more

than five minutes. He’s confident that the environment will suit him

down to the ground: ’I’m a very commercial person, and this is a very

commercial channel.’



Another proud moment came at Channel 5: ’It was great securing the deal

with 20th Century Fox and Columbia Tri-Star to bring huge feature films

such as Independence Day and Speed to the channel. No-one expected

little ol’ Channel 5 to get the big boys in.’



Bergg would clean up if he ever appeared on Telly Addicts. He has seen

pretty much every episode of every programme that has ever appeared on

TV, and even watches a video Walkman on the train.



How Bergg’s starring role in the Sky One story will end is anyone’s

guess.



Let’s just hope that this time it’s not a mini-series.





THE BERGG FILE



1987: LWT, research executive



1989: TV-am research manager, rising to head of acquisition



1993: GMTV, controller of marketing, research and acquisition



1994: BBC1, scheduler



1996: Channel 5, controller of planning and acquisition



1997: ITV, director of planning and strategy



1999: Sky One, general manager.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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