Elisabeth Murdoch, who earlier today dramatically quit as BSkyB's managing director of Sky Networks, is expected to strike a TV programming deal with the satellite broadcaster as part of her new production venture.
Murdoch, a driving force behind BSkyB's prolific film production activity, is setting up a UK venture specialising in TV, film and new media content. She is to step down next month.
But Murdoch's departure is expected to unnerve the film sector as she has been a leading advocate of film at the broadcaster, which produces films through Sky Pictures. Saving Grace, the operation's most high-profile success to date, was picked up by Fine Line Features at Sundance for $4m.
Director of broadcasting Mark Sharman is understood to be temporarily taking over Murdoch's role as managing director of Sky Networks, running the content side of the business. BSkyB's shares slipped 1.04% to £17.20 in response to the news.
Murdoch said: "I have enjoyed my four years at Sky enormously. It is a company that I have been proud to work for and contribute to. At Sky, I have had the privilege of working with some of the best TV executives around and it is with some lament that I leave such a winning team. However, now is a great time to pursue something that I have been thinking about for some time."
Tony Ball, chief executive of BSkyB, commented: "Liz Murdoch has been pivotal in the company's creative development. Under her direction, our channels have thrived and led the way in the multi-channel world; we have launched major new film and TV divisions; attracted leading talent in front of and behind the camera to our network; and invigorated our brand through our latest marketing campaign. We will miss her greatly and wish her well with her new venture."
Separately, Sky has appointed Jamie Roberts, formerly director of programmes, Sky One, to the role of head of TV film production. Roberts reports to Will Turner, head of Sky Pictures. The company said that it aimed to produce four TV event movies a year in addition to "its ongoing commitment to produce eight theatrical feature films a year."