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
’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
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
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
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.