In what is being described as a “huge blow” to ITV, Laura Mackie and Sally Haynes, the drama executives behind the global sensation Downton Abbey, have quit the show to set up their own independent production company!
Mackie, the director of drama at ITV, and Haynes, controller of drama commissioning, revealed their decision yesterday leaving ITV “in a state of shock” according to the Independent newspaper.
Their departure is believed to be set for June this year, after working with the hugely popular network for seven years, during which they helped rebuild the image of ITV drama, in particular bringing to life the epic period drama, Downton Abbey.
Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television said that the women had: “a tremendous run at ITV, and their legacy is an incredibly strong drama slate for 2013 and beyond,” adding: “We’re going to miss them.”
Mackie came across to ITV from the BBC, where she was head of drama serials, back in 2006. She was joined in the leap of channels at the same time by Haynes who had been a BBC executive producer.
In a statement released yesterday Mackie said that both she and Haynes were: “incredibly proud of the dramas we’ve commissioned with Peter. The range of our output from Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge through to Scott & Bailey and Appropriate Adult are testimony to the ambition of the channel.”
Lisa Campbell, editor of Broadcast, said: “The departure will be a huge blow for ITV as Laura and Sally have spear-headed the broadcaster’s drama renaissance. “
Some of the dynamic duo’s major credits whilst at the network include Broadchurch, starring David Tennant, The Bletchley Circle, and Life of Crime.
Campbell continued: “They will be remembered first and foremost for bringing Downton Abbey to our screens, as well a global success. But they’ve also been responsible for a string of new drama hits on ITV1, not least Scott & Bailey which served to reinvent the popular crime genre with its compelling female protagonists.
“Laura and Sally are very popular figures in the industry and have a reputation for being among the best commissioners to work with.”
One producer close to Haynes said: “They’ve done incredibly well at ITV and become quite a force in the industry. The channel has had a pretty good run. Not only was Downton an extraordinary hit, it was noticed by the Americans. It will be interesting to see how they do.”
This news comes as little surprise to many as rumours about their departure began circulating last year after reports claimed that they were considering an independent joint venture after they suggested that the challenge “intrigued” them.
In their place Steve November, ITV’s current head of drama serials, has been named acting director of drama temporarily whilst ITV seek a full time replacement.