Michele Kurland, the current head of factual entertainment at UK prodco talkbackTHAMES, will oversee all of Sky’s factual entertainment output, replacing outgoing fact ent head Mark Sammon. The appointment becomes effective in March.
As head of factual entertainment, Kurland will be tasked with overseeing all fact ent series in production across Sky’s portfolio, which includes Sky 1 HD, Sky Living HD, Sky Atlantic, HD and Sky Arts HD. She’ll also be searching for new ideas to commission.
Her brief ranges from brands such as Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model and Fame in the Frame, to the upcoming Sky 1 ‘Winners’ strand and Morgan Spurlock’s New Brittania.
She joins a commissioning team led by Celia Taylor, head of factual and features; Anne Mensah, head of drama; Lucy Lumsden, head of comedy; and Phil Edgar Jones, head of entertainment.
The strengthened programming team is part of Sky’s strategy to increase its investment in original British content by 50% over the next three years. By 2014, Sky expects to invest £600 million a year in British programs across its portfolio of channels.
Kurland joined talkbackTHAMES in 2006 to executive produce the third series of BBC2′s The Apprentice and was appointed head of factual entertainment the following year. She oversaw the department that produces The Apprentice, You’re Fired!, Junior Apprentice and Can’t Take It With You with Gerry Robinson. Prior to this, she worked at the BBC for 13 years, for the main part in the specialist factual department.
“We worked together at the BBC and I have been trying for years to work with her again,” said Stuart Murphy, director, Sky 1 HD and director of commissioning, Sky. “Her attention to detail, love of talent, and ability to make funny, dramatic TV out of people selling lamps shaped like kettles are second to none.
“We are very lucky to have her join to work across the Sky Entertainment portfolio with the existing and brilliant commissioning team,” he added. “I’d like to once again thank Mark Sammon, the outgoing head, for all his work, and for the commissioning execs, Sadia Butt and Bernadette Morley, for taking on additional workload during the transition.”
“I’ve had an amazing time working at talkbackTHAMES and with everyone there, but the challenge of moving from production into commissioning was an opportunity I couldn’t resist,” said Kurland.
TalkbackTHAMES announced a restructuring in November that will split the brand into four divisions in the new year. At the time of the announcement, the company said that Kurland would play “a key role” in the new “super-factual” division, dubbed Boundless. The company is currently looking to recruit an MD for the division.