According to well-placed industry sources, Mr Boulton is to join ITV as controller of acquisitions, replacing Jeff Ford, who left recently for Channel Five. The move will come as a blow to BSkyB which, under its new chief executive, Mark Booth, is trying to increase its investments in programming.
Mr Booth, who formally took over from Sam Chisholm last month, said earlier this week that BSkyB would start making made-for-television films with budgets of up to pounds 5m. The satellite broadcaster has also been looking at taking minority stakes in independent production companies, although it is now thought to have backed away from that approach.
The latest departure follows a succession of senior staff changes triggered by the exit of Mr Chisholm. He resigned in the summer due to ill health, and his deputy, David Chance, also said he was stepping down, although he remains as a consultant. Since then, Richard Brooke, finance director, has quit, and, most recently, Jim Hytner, marketing director, left the company to take up the same post at Channel Five.
The resignations - combined with regulatory challenges - have hit the company's share price hard. From a peak of 662.5p early in the year, BSkyB has plunged to just over the 450p mark. Last night, the company closed up 6.75p at 461p.
Mr Boulton was not available for comment last night, and ITV Network Centre also refused to return calls.
However, Mr Booth said at the beginning of the week that there was likely to be continued turnover among BSkyB's top management.
Mr Boulton's decision to join ITV comes at a challenging time for the network. Richard Eyre, formerly chief executive of Capital Radio, was appointed chief executive of ITV earlier this year, with a brief to unify the disparate owners of independent television, and revive the dwindling audience share. Mr Eyre was joined in August by David Liddiment, previously Granada Broadcasting managing director, who became director of programmes.Reuse content