Abraham to head U.K.’s Channel 4

Exec is chief of multi-channel provider UKTV

LONDON — Channel 4, the U.K. hybrid pubcaster, has chosen the head of U.K. multi-channel provider UKTV, David Abraham, as its new CEO.

The appointment has caused surprise in Blighty, where former Discovery topper Jane Root was regarded as the favorite to land the job.

It was also thought that the web’s new chairman, Terry Burns, would hire someone possessing a solid background in public service broadcasting, whereas Abraham’s expertise, like his predecessor Andy Duncan, is in marketing.

In a statement, Burns said: “David is a rare commodity as a broadcaster in that he has an exceptional track record as an innovative leader, both creatively and commercially.

“At all stages of his career he’s led creative teams and commissioned creative output of the highest quality in a commercial environment.

“It is that experience, we believe, that so well qualifies him for the challenge of running a commercially funded, public service broadcaster like Channel 4.”

Abraham, who joined UKTV in 2007 from Discovery Networks USA, where he was prexy and manager of TLC for two years, will take up his new post at a date to be confirmed.

He said: “I look forward to leading the whole organization through its next period of growth and innovation, both creatively and commercially.

“What I bring to deliver that future is idealism, versatility and a record of leading creative organizations through change.”

Oxford-educated Abraham began his media career in advertising and was a founding partner and chief operating officer at the innovative U.K. ad agency St Luke’s before working for four years as general manager of Discovery Networks UK.

At UKTV he was famous for the successful re-branding of G2 channel as Dave, one of the most spectacular success stories of Blighty’s multi-channel era.

He will take over the helm at a time of great uncertainty for Channel 4, which needs to reinvent itself for an all-digital world and, in common with all other commercial free-to-air broadcasters, find ways of making money from its online activities.

No one doubts Abraham’s credentials as an expert in branding and marketing but there will be disappointment in the U.K. production community that Burns did not give the job to someone with a background in program-making.