“Planet Earth” producer Jonny Keeling has been appointed the new head of the BBC’s Natural History Unit (NHU), Variety can exclusively reveal. He takes up the new role in December.
Keeling, who is currently series producer on “Planet Earth III,” will be responsible for all of the NHU’s creative and commercial activity, reporting to BBC Studios’ managing director of factual, Tom McDonald. He will also join McDonald’s leadership team.
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The producer, whose credits include David Attenborough series “Planet Earth,” “Planet Earth II,” and “Seven Worlds, One Planet,” will take over as the unit’s head from Julian Hector, whose five-year stint saw him oversee shows such as “Blue Planet II,” “Dynasties” and “The Green Planet.”
Hector also oversaw the NHU’s first original commissions for international broadcasters. Keeling’s remit will include developing the unit’s presence in North America via its satellite office in Los Angeles.. He will also play a key role in NHU’s relocation to Bristol.
Keeling’s Emmy and BAFTA award-winning 25-year career has seen him take on roles including producer, series producer and executive producer across a number of NHU shows.
He was formerly head of NHU Children’s, where he executive produced “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures” and “Deadly Pole to Pole,” developing and producing projects ranging from animation and comedy to drama. He also has experience in producing content in a number of formats including live broadcasts, online games, short form videos and 3D films.
“Jonny is one of the best blue chip natural history executives in the industry – and has a depth of experience not just in landmark programming but in a huge variety of tones and forms,” said McDonald. “As well as being passionate about the quality of the NHU’s programming, he’s a brilliant leader: ambitious and inspiring, and I cannot wait to work with him to continue the NHU’s incredible growth.”
“I feel honored to be taking on the role of head of the Natural History Unit,” said Keeling. “The unit plays an increasingly urgent and vital role in telling impactful stories from the natural world during a time in which our planet faces unprecedented challenges. My ambition is simple – to produce high-quality content that’s original, ambitious and compelling and to ensure that the NHU remains the most respected maker of wildlife programming in the world.”
Over the past four years NHU has picked up a staggering 200 awards, including four Emmys and 11 BAFTA TV awards. Upcoming commissions include “Frozen Planet II” and “Chris & Meg’s Wild Summer” for the BBC, “The Year Earth Changes” for Apple, “Ocean Xplorers” for National Geographic, “Endangered” for Discovery and NBCU’s “The Americas.”
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