Sky entertainment boss Stuart Murphy quits

Exclusive: The man in charge of the broadcaster's main entertainment channels becomes the second biggest TV departure in the space of a week

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Sky entertainment boss Stuart Murphy is leaving the organisation after six and a half years, RadioTimes.com can reveal.

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The executive who launched Sky Atlantic and is in charge of the main entertainment channels – Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Sky Living – has left without a job to go to. However he has signed a content deal with the broadcaster which will see him develop his own scripts.

Murphy’s departure is the second biggest in TV this week following the surprise announcement that BBC director of television Danny Cohen is leaving.

Murphy, a popular figure in broadcasting circles, was seen by many as a creative maverick who enjoyed working closely with the writing and production talent but whose style did not always fit in with the corporate ethos of the broadcasting giant.

Sky sources said that Murphy’s decision was nothing to do with the arrival of a new managing director of content, Gary Davey, who Sky is said to have a more “straight” and conventional management style.

“Stuart wants to stick more to the content side of things and has a deal with Sky Vision where he will develop comedy and drama scripts,” said a source. “It was his decision, he has decided to step down. He wants to do his own stuff.

“Sophie Turner Laing [Davey’s predecessor] could be said in some ways to be quite straight. It’s not about that.”

A former BBC3 controller, like Cohen, Murphy was hired by Sky from the independent giant Two Four where he was creative director.

Programme successes overseen by Murphy at Sky include An Idiot Abroad, Stella, Fortitude, Strike Back and Moone Boy.

However, among his shows which failed to make a significant impact and were axed are the Jed Mercurio medical drama Critical, firefighting drama The Smoke and relationship comedy Trying Again.

According to BBC sources, Murphy is not being considered for the vacant director of television role at the BBC which becomes free when Danny Cohen leaves the Corporation in November.

According to a top level BBC source, Cohen’s job is going to be re-shaped and may even “shrink”, with senior figures at the Corporation believing Murphy wouldn’t be a “fit” for the new post at the public service broadcaster.

Following RadioTimes.com’s revelation about Murphy’s resignation, Sky issued a confirmation with quotes from Davey.

Davey said: “Stuart has played an important part in the growth of Sky’s content over the past six years. I’d like to thank him for his creative leadership and everything he has done to build Sky’s entertainment channels. He’s been responsible for brilliant dramas from The Enfield Haunting to You, Me and the Apocalypse and stand out comedies including Moone Boy and Stella. He has developed compelling channel brands which our customers value and commissioned content they love. He leaves behind a strong and well-respected commissioning team who will take our content to even greater heights and we look forward to working with him in the future.”

Murphy added: “My sadness at leaving a company I love is tempered by my immense pride in what we have achieved together. Sky is a company in rude health, bursting with ideas, creativity, and sheer fun and I leave the department in the hands of colleagues I love and admire. For 14 of the past 17 years I have been running TV channels, including a fantastic six and a half years with Sky.  TV has been a huge part of my life but with our entertainment in great shape now feels the ideal time to have a think about what else I want to do.

“I’m delighted to have signed a production commitment with Sky Vision to write and develop comedy and drama projects, as this has been a private passion of mine for years, but I’m also very excited about exploring opportunities outside of TV.

“I’m hugely grateful to Sky for the incredible opportunities they have given me and  feel privileged to have run a team responsible for buying and commissioning some of the world’s best shows – from Modern Family to Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, and An Idiot Abroad to The Last Panthers. There are very few jobs that have such an amazing range, where one has the joy of working with such relentlessly curious people, and I have never taken any of that for granted. There are many people I would like to thank, but specifically I owe a lot to Jeremy Darroch, Andrew Griffith, Sophie Turner Laing, Gary Davey and Alice Bartley, all of whom have been a pleasure to work with. I’d like to thank everyone for a very special chapter in my life.”

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There are no current plans to replace Murphy directly, meaning Sky 1 controller Adam MacDonald and Sky Atlantic controller Zai Bennet will report directly to Davey.