Films will form an integral part of a new entertainment channel to be launched by UK pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB under the aegis of Dawn Airey, who was appointed managing director of Sky Networks over the weekend.

Airey, currently chief executive of Channel 5, will join BSkyB in early 2003 in a role that will see her take charge of all programming except for Sky Sports. She reports directly to BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball.

One of her first tasks will be to launch a new general entertainment channel to sit alongside existing entertainment channel Sky One, which will showcase films and entertainment programmes. "We are looking at options for a premium entertainment channel and movies will be an attractive part of that," said a BSkyB spokesman.

According to reports, an amalgamation of Sky One and the new entertainment channel will also be likely to replace Sky Travel on Freeview, the new digital terrestrial TV platform being rolled by a consortium including the BBC and Sky to replace the now defunct ITV Digital.

Films will be a key part of Airey's brief, which will also see her overseeing BSkyB's existing film channels.

As such she will be closely involved in the upcoming re-negotiation of BSkyB's existing output deals with the Hollywood studios - which, apart from Warner Bros, are all due for renewal in the near future.

BSkyB, which effectively dominates the UK pay-TV broadcasting landscape, is bullish in thinking that it will be able to renegotiate the deals in its favour. "Whether we have deals with all the majors in the future remains to be seen," said the spokesman.

Sky renegotiated its output deal with Warner in March.