Drama executives behind Downton Abbey Laura Mackie and Sally Haynes quit ITV to set up independent production company


In a dramatic twist worthy of Downton Abbey’s Christmas episode, the women who commissioned the global hit are to leave ITV to set up on their own, 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 today 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 re-built ITV as a destination for quality drama, most notably Downton, the highest rating drama on British television last year.  

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.”

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 corporation with Haynes, who was a senior executive producer, before she too moved to ITV in 2006.

Mackie said today that 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. “

Among the pair’s other commissions were Broadchurch, starring David Tennant, The Bletchley Circle, and Life of Crime. “They will be remembered first and foremost for bringing Downton Abbey to our screens, as well a global success,” Ms Campbell said. “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.”

One producer who knows 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.”

Rumours about their departure began to circulate last year, after reports suggested they were “intrigued” by the challenge of moving to the independent sector.

Steve November, ITV’s head of drama serials, has been named acting director of drama while the broadcaster seeks a full time replacement.

Broadcast’s Ms Campbell added: “Laura and Sally are very popular figures in the industry and have a reputation for being among the best commissioners to work with.”

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas