Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham is leaving the UK broadcaster later this year to launch a new media business in 2018.
Abraham has been at the public service commercial broadcaster since 2010 and leaves amid further questions over its future structure.
The channel appeared to have weathered a storm last year amid suggestions that the government wanted to privatise the channel. Having lobbied hard and appearing to have won support for its position, the pressure looked to have been alleviated with the departure of pro-privatisation culture secretary John Whittingdale.
His predecessor Karen Bradley, however, has continued to review the pubcaster and is thought to be weighing an attempt to force it to relocate from London to Birmingham, a move that Abraham opposes.
News of Abraham’s departure was botched when the broadcaster tweeted a partial statement about his exit before then confirming the resulting news stories arising from the social media release.
He will remain at the helm of Channel 4 until a replacement is found, which will happen before end-2017. The broadcaster said he was leaving to “develop personal plans to launch a media enterprise in 2018”.
Abraham 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 £1 billion (US$1.2 billion), investment in content of £700 million 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.”
Prior to Channel 4, Abraham’s TV career included stints leading Discovery in Europe and then its TLC cable net in the US, and as CEO of channels group UKTV.
Speaking about his next move he said: “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.”
Last week Abraham was in Israel at INTV talking about Channel 4 and highlighting its strong digital performance and investment in the likes of SVOD service Walter Presents.
Charles Gurassa, Channel 4 chair said: “David Abraham has been an outstanding chief executive 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.”