Dawn Airey to oversee five new Sky channels

BSkyB's surprise appointment of Dawn Airey as the managing director of Sky Networks, announced at the weekend, coincides with ambitious expansion plans at the pay-TV broadcaster.

Airey, who joins with a reported £1 million package, will oversee the development of five new channels as well as its non-sport programming.

First will be three Sky-branded music channels catering for different genres and different audiences. These will challenge MTV's traditional hold on the music TV market and are expected to launch next year as basic tier channels.

BSkyB is also launching a multiplex channel similar to Sky One but for a different age group, and is in the early stages of planning a premium entertainment channel with a mixture of content including sport and movies.

These will bring the number of Sky-branded channels available to subscribers to 20.

The City reacted positively to the news - BSkyB presents its quarterly results in November. Share prices across the media owners, including BSkyB, fluctuated wildly this week but Alex de Groote, a media analyst at Credit Agricole, said these were not related to Airey's move but rather reflected the general state of the market.

However, he added that Airey's move throws Five's future into question. There has been speculation that it will become a BSkyB target after the Communications Bill comes into effect. Earlier this year, the BSkyB chief executive, Tony Ball, scotched these reports and the RTL chief executive - Five is majority owned by RTL - Didier Bellens has previously denied the station is up for sale.

Five has begun the process of selecting a new chief executive. In the meantime, the deputy chief executive and director of advertising sales, Nick Milligan, has become the acting chief executive and has been tipped to get the job full-time.

- Perspective, p12.

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