David Abraham leaving Channel 4

Channel 4 CEO David Abraham will leave the UK’s commercially funded public broadcaster by the end of the year.
Abraham will depart after seven years with the channel to return to the private sector and launch a new media company. The news was first revealed in a tweet by C4 which has since been deleted, but has subsequently been confirmed by the network.

Abraham has led C4 since 2010, recently defending it against government plans for privatisation.

That threat appeared to have receded midway through last year but Matthew Hancock MP raised the prospect again after becoming UK culture minister in July.

The channel’s chief creative officer Jay Hunt spoke of the negative effects the ongoing threat of privatisation was having on the broadcaster in August.

The broadcaster has also faced the prospect of being moved out of its West London base to a city elsewhere in the country, with Birmingham being the frontrunner, to boost its commissioning efforts outside the capital.

Having joined from rival UKTV, where he was also CEO, Abraham has overseen growth in revenues and programme investment, recovery in the station’s performance post-Big Brother under Hunt, and investment in a slew of indies through C4’s growth fund.

At the time of his arrival his predecessor Andy Duncan had forecast a budget deficit of £150m (US$182m) but under Abraham revenues at the not-for-profit channel have surged to more than £1bn and the channel now has cash reserves to invest in programming and prodcos.

The channel also bucked the trend in linear television to grow its audience share last year having hit a 20-year low in 2014, with hit series such as Gogglebox, First Dates and 24 Hours in A&E being subsequently remade around the world. An ambitious drama commissioning strategy has seen it air its most expensive scripted series ever, Indian Summers, and partner with US channel AMC on sci-fi series Humans.

Last year the channel completed a high profile £75m deal to acquire the BBC’s successful Great British Bake Off format which it intends to launch later this year.

Abraham, who will remain in position until a new CEO is in place, said: “I had three priorities when I joined Channel 4 in 2010: to build an independently sustainable business while still delivering strongly to our public remit; to assemble a team capable of delivering creative renewal post-Big Brother; and to become world leaders in digital and data innovation.

“After several successive years of positive momentum and with revenues now of circa £1bn, investment in content of £700m and sustained creative performance, I have decided that 2017 is the right year for me to hand over this important public job to my successor.

“I now look forward to working with the Channel 4 board to support and hand over to my successor and then begin the next phase of my life – back in the private sector where I hope to build an organisation that makes use of all that I learned from leading different kinds of innovative creative businesses.”

C4 chairman Charles Gurassa said: “David Abraham has been an outstanding CEO of Channel 4 over the last seven years. Under his leadership, the channel has delivered record revenues, record programme investment, award-winning creative renewal and industry-leading digital innovation. He leaves the organisation in excellent creative and financial health and with a strong and highly experienced team in place.

“We wish him well in his future new enterprise. My colleagues on the board and I will be undertaking a comprehensive recruitment process over the next months to ensure that Channel 4 continues to have outstanding leadership into the future.”

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