Channel 4 chief executive to stand down

David Abraham, the CEO of Channel 4, will stand down later this year after seven years in the job.

Channel 4 accidentally tweeted the statement about his departure, before promptly deleting it. The broadcaster later confirmed Abraham's departure.

He leaves Channel 4 at a time when it is thriving both editorially and commercially - and yet under a cloud.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Abraham will leave Channel 4 at the end of this year

The government has flirted with privatising the broadcaster, which is a commercially funded public organisation, and there have been rumours about a relocation, or part relocation to Birmingham.

In recent weeks, my sources at the broadcaster have conveyed immense frustration at the lack of clarity from government about its future. This at a time when it is generally considered to be fulfilling its public service remit well.

But when I spoke to Abraham, he made explicit that this wasn't an act of protest. He has undoubtedly found it frustrating trying to lead such a big organisation without clear direction from a key stakeholder - ie the government - but for what it's worth, and knowing him a bit, I believe him when he says he always thought this was a job he would do for about seven years.

Gogglebox and Benefits Street

Over the course of its 35-year history, seven years has been the average tenure for chief executives at Channel 4.

Moreover, Abraham, who is 53, says he wants the challenge of running his own business. He used to run UKTV, a multi-channel offering in Britain, and knows the advertising market well. While tight-lipped about his next move, he says it will call on his previous experience.

By most measures, his tenure must be measured a success.

Revenues have risen sharply from £830m to over £1bn, despite the structural challenges in the advertising market. This shows Abraham's efficacy in raising digital revenues, not least through the internet service All4, which has become a sustainable data company of its own accord.

Image copyright Channel 4/Jude Edginton
Image caption Gogglebox has been a commercial success for Channel 4

Moreover, he inherited a broadcaster that was forecast to slide, especially after the loss of cash cow Big Brother to Channel 5. To have improved finances in such circumstances is commendable. Though the creative output of the broadcaster is ultimately the responsibility of chief creative officer Jay Hunt - who will naturally be a strong contender for Abraham's job - it's worth noting that in Abraham's time Channel 4 has had considerable success with shows such as The Last Leg, Gogglebox and, more controversially, Benefits Street.

Whoever succeeds him will have a tough job in continuing to grow revenues as a new generation of viewers watch television on other devices, and in dealing with a government that is yet to persuade Channel 4 staff that it really believes in what they do.

Abraham's successor will be appointed before the end of 2017, and he will remain in position until then.

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