BBC Online Chief Huggers Leaving For Intel In Cost Cuts

The BBC’s most senior online executive, Erik Huggers, is leaving the corporation for Intel, prompting his Future Media & Technology division to be split in two, paidContent:UK has confirmed (read Mark Thompson’s staff memo).

Recently-hired Ralph Rivera will lead Future Media, while CTO John Linwood will head the Technology division.

Huggers is the latest BBC executive board member to leave without being replaced, as the corporation tries to find another 20 percent budget cut by 2013, a spokesperson said. Deputy director-general Mark Byford and marketing and communications head Sharon Bayley have also left.

Huggers was on a £330,000 salary and total £407,000 remuneration package in 2009/10.

Amongst his last acts has been planning to cut 25 percent from the BBC’s online budget and staff by 2013, under cost measures announced in the autumn. Staff will learn in the few weeks how this will filter through in to job cuts. Huggers will leave at February’s end. Look on this as the most-expensive team member falling on his own sword before online staff around the UK learn their fate.

Huggers will become corporate VP and GM of Intel’s Digital Home Group in Silicon Valley.

A former Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) digital entertainment executive who joined the BBC in 2007 and who replaced Ashley Highfield as the corporation’s top online exec a year later, Huggers’ tenure has been marked by the booming popularity of the multi-platform iPlayer on-demand service, which was introduced by his predecessor and the technology for which was improved by online controller Anthony Rose, who departed last year.

It has also been an expansionist tenure, both within and without the BBC – marked by Huggers’ own growing importance inside thanks to iPlayer, and efforts to form VOD joint ventures with commercial broadcasting counterparts on web and connected-TVs, with Project Kangaroo and YouView respectively. Critics might say the end to expansionism that these cuts might bring about is not Huggers’ natural habitat.

But this reorg is a relatively clean one. Rivera’s Future Media division will report to BBC director-general Mark Thompson, Linwood’s Technology division to BBC COO Caroline Thomson. The latter division is currently occupied with systems implementations on the BBC’s West One and MediaCity developments. But it will continue working with Future Media.

In the new role of digital media director, Rivera has only been on board since October – he was previously online president of pro video games league Major League Gaming and, before that, a 10-year SVP and GM of games at AOL (NYSE: AOL). Now he is effectively Huggers’ replacement.