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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Children's champion moves up
Ant and Dec
Mr Pickard worked on SM:tv, featuring Ant and Dec
Nigel Pickard, the new director of programming for ITV, is the brain behind SM:tv, the BBC digital children's channels and the revival of Basil Brush.

Quite aside from the merger of Carlton and Granada, the ITV network is facing its biggest crisis in 50 years, with falling ratings and a slump in advertising sales.

How the 50-year-old father of three will rise to the challenge of revamping the network's output will make for equally interesting viewing.

Much of his 30-year career in television has been spent working on children's programming - but in that field he has been involved in some of the most inventive, successful shows in recent years.

It was Mr Pickard who gave the go-ahead to SM:tv and CD:UK, which saw ITV1 win the lion's share of the Saturday morning audience from the BBC and turned Ant and Dec into huge stars.
Nigel Pickard
Mr Pickard has worked in TV for 30 years

He was also behind the launch of its BBC rival, The Saturday Show, as well as the two digital children's channels, CBBC and CBeebies.

Prior to his stint at the BBC, Mr Pickard spent the majority of his career in commercial television, beginning as a film editor and floor manager at the long-defunct Southampton-based ITV company Southern in 1972.

Gameshows

In 1982 Southern lost its franchise to TVS, and Mr Pickard moved to the new company to become senior director of its children's output.

There, he worked on such shows as the Saturday morning hit No.73, featuring Sandi Toksvig, and its replacement Motormouth.

Saturday Show
He replaced Saturday Show presenters Dani Behr and Joe Mace

A brief spell at Scottish Television followed, before he joined cable station The Family Channel as director of programming and then Flextech Television where he oversaw the launch of Challenge TV, devoted to gameshows.

But his return to ITV as controller of children's and youth programmes in 1998 proved to be his most successful move so far.

It was there that he commissioned SM:tv and CD:UK, breaking the stranglehold that the BBC had had on the Saturday morning audience.

Digital

The show's mix of irreverent, wacky humour and the appeal of presenters Ant, Dec and Cat Deeley saw its ratings soaring, with over two million people tuning in to watch the Geordie duo's final show in December 2001.

Mr Pickard's spell at the BBC, which began two years ago, presented him with the challenge of coming up with a strong Saturday morning rival to his own ITV creation.
CBBC
He oversaw the launch of CBBC

He axed Live And Kicking in March 2001 and replaced it with The Saturday Show - but viewing figures were a disappointment, and earlier this year presenters Dani Behr and Joe Mace were replaced by Simon Grant and Fearne Cortton.

He also orchestrated the launch of the two digital channels CBeebies and CBBC, which went on the air in February 2002.

But Mr Pickard has not just concerned himself with new faces and shows - he has also revived such children's favourites as Basil Brush and the Play School windows.

See also:

16 Oct 02 | Entertainment
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20 Nov 01 | Entertainment
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