IN a dramatic twist worthy of the 'Downton Abbey' Christmas episode, the women who commissioned the global hit are to leave ITV to set up on their own company, in what has been described as a "huge blow" to the broadcaster.
Laura Mackie, director of drama at ITV, and Sally Haynes, controller of drama commissioning, revealed yesterday they were to leave and set up an independent production company. One industry insider said ITV had been left "in a state of shock".
They will leave the broadcaster in June after seven years in which they rebuilt ITV as a destination for quality drama, most notably the period drama ' Downton Abbey,' the highest rating drama on British television last year, which has also enjoyed widespread international success.
Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television said the pair 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."
Ms Mackie joined ITV as controller of drama commissioning in 2006 from the BBC where she was head of drama serials. She had worked at the BBC with Ms Haynes, who was a senior executive producer, before she too moved to ITV in 2006.
Ms Mackie said that she and Ms 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' magazine, said: "The departure will be a huge blow for ITV as Laura and Sally have spear-headed the broadcaster's drama renaissance. They will be remembered first and foremost for bringing 'Downton Abbey' to our screens." (© Independent News Service)