The will-she-won’t-she saga of Dawn Airey’s much-anticipated move from Britain’s smallest terrestrial TV channel Five to rival ITV has taken a wholly unexpected twist with the news that she is leaving for Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB instead.

ITV has been wooing Five ceo Airey – credited with building the channel’s share of audience and advertising – for months. Many media observers considered her acceptance a formality, making the swoop by satellite operator BSkyB, to be announced today (Monday), something of a surprise.

Instead of becoming head of the ITV network, hyped as the biggest job in Britain’s commercial TV sector, Airey will be appointed managing director of Sky Networks.

Reporting to the satellite firm’s ceo Tony Ball, she will take charge of all BSkyB’s non-sport channels and head development of new music and entertainment offerings. She is expected to take up the post in the new year.

ITV played down its failure to land Airey, saying it had already switched to “Plan B thinking” – thought to involve targeting ex-Channel 4 boss Michael Grade, even though he has claimed to be uninterested in the position.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff