The search a for a new chief executive at UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB has gathered impressive momentum, although some onlookers find it difficult to distinguish between shadow and substance.

According to Wednesday's Financial Times, New York headhunter Spencer Stuart is poised to present a 'long list' of ceo wannabes to BSkyB's four-strong nominations committee, chaired by independent director Lord Norman St John Stevas of Fawsley.

The list is said to comprise five external candidates, three from the USA and two locals. In addition, there are three internal runners: BSkyB finance director Martin Stewart, chief operating officer Richard Freudenstein and Jon Florsheim, sales and marketing director.

It is rumoured that UK heavyweights such as Vodafone chief operating officer Julian Horn-Smith and Clear Channel International ceo Roger Parry are longlisted. As are US contenders Matt Blank (chief executive of Showtime Networks); Steve Bornstein, president of American football channel NFL Network; and former president of NBC's west coast unit Scott Sassa.

Number nine in the line (although not necessarily in that order) is James Murdoch, youngest son of BSkyB chairman Rupert, said by NewsCorp president/coo Peter Chernin to be the group's preferred candidate.

Neither Spencer Stuart nor BSkyB were prepared to comment on the candidate list.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff