David Abraham (television executive)

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David Abraham
Born1963 (age 56–57)
Titleex-Chief Executive of Channel Four Television Corporation
Term2010 - October 2017
PredecessorAndy Duncan
SuccessorAlex Mahon

David Abraham (born August 1963) is a British media executive, who is the ex-chief executive of Channel 4 Television Corporation.[1] In 1997 he co-founded the creative agency St. Luke’s. Abraham then went on to senior creative roles at Discovery Communications in the UK and the US before becoming CEO of UKTV in 2007 and then CEO of Channel 4 from 2010 to 2017.[2]

Early life[edit]

Abraham was born in Lincolnshire. Both his parents immigrated to the UK in the 1950s – his mother from Belgium and his father from Calcutta. He moved with his parents and sister to Essex in the 1970s where he attended local state schools, before going to Oxford University in 1981 to study Modern History at Magdalen College.

Early career[edit]

Abraham began his working life at the advertising agency Benton & Bowles in London in 1984. He moved to the creative agency Collett Dickenson Peace (CDP) and worked with Indra Sinha and Neil Godfrey.[3] In 1990 he moved to the London office of the Californian creative agency Chiat/Day – launched by MT Rainey.[4]

St Luke’s[edit]

In 1995, Jay Chiat sold his agency network to Omnicom with the intention to globally merge Chiat/Day with TBWA. In the UK, client conflicts prompted an employee buy-out of the business, led by Andy Law and Abraham,[5] who became Chief Operating Officer. St. Luke's has been featured in Law's book Open Minds, in the Harvard Business Review[6] and in a Channel 4 Cutting Edge Documentary.

Discovery Networks Europe[edit]

Abraham became the general manager of Discovery Networks Europe in 2001.

TLC US[edit]

Abraham became general manager of TLC in 2005,[7] a US cable channel available in over 90m US households.


In 2007, Abraham became the chief executive of UKTV.[8] At the time UKTV was a joint venture between BBC Worldwide and Virgin Media. During his tenure, he oversaw launches of Dave, Alibi, Watch, Yesterday and Really.

Channel Four[edit]

Abraham succeeded interim chief executive Anne Bulford in May 2010 following a period of relative uncertainty at Channel 4 involving a debate about the organisation's self-sufficiency, leading to what was described as a 'public begging bowl' strategy. Abraham was appointed by incoming chairman Lord Terry Burns.

Abraham became immediately involved in programming issues such as whether Jonathan Ross should return,[9] and in defending a controversial Frankie Boyle sketch about Katie Price's family.[10]

Abraham assembled a new leadership team including appointing Jay Hunt from BBC One as chief creative officer to revive programming.[11] Over the next few years, Channel 4's programmes included 24 Hours in A&E, The 2012 Paralympic Games, The Grand National, Black Mirror, Gogglebox, The Last Leg, Humans, The Undateables, Educating Yorkshire, The Island, Indian Summers, Southcliffe, UKIP; The First 100 Days, Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, Benefits Street, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and MPs For Hire.

In 2010 and 2014, Channel 4 was named Channel of the Year at the Edinburgh International Television Festival,[12] and by Broadcast magazine in 2016.[13]

In late 2015, Abraham and Hunt struck a three-year deal with Bernie Ecclestone to broadcast Formula One on Channel 4.[14] In early 2015, Channel 4 launched new online hub All 4, offering live streaming, shortform and 'box-set' content, and replacing 4oD.[15] In early 2016, a new foreign language drama service called Walter Presents was launched on All 4.[16]

Abraham increased funding for Film4 in 2010[17] and again in 2016[18] and the film division led by Tessa Ross and subsequently David Kosse.[19] In 2016 Abraham appointed Daniel Battsek to lead Film 4 following the leaving of David Kosse to join STX.

In 2010, Abraham and Burns pursued a bid to acquire Channel 5. This was ultimately secured by Richard Desmond's Northern and Shell.[20]

Abraham's other business initiatives at Channel 4 have included: a new advertising sales partnership with UKTV[21] (and later, BT Sport). A new on-line data strategy which has over 13 million registered users across the UK[22] and the launch of 4seven.[23] In 2011 Abraham hired Jonathan Allen as Sales Director[24] who built a team than won Sales Team of the Year in 2015.[25]

Dan Brooke also joined the Channel 4 as director of marketing and communications[26] and then Chief Marketing and Communications Officer.[27] Channel 4’s in-house agency 4Creative have created campaigns such as Meet The Superhumans[28] in 2012 and the rebranding of Channel 4 in 2015 created by the film-maker Jonathan Glazer.[29]

In June 2017, it was announced that Abraham would leave later that year and would be succeeded by Alex Mahon as the CEO of Channel 4.[30] Mahon formally took over the role in October 2017.[31]

Wonderhood Studios[edit]

In April 2018, Abraham announced[32] the launch of a new company, Wonderhood Studios. The stated aims of the business are to forge a new model in the creative industries by bringing together skills and capabilities that until now have operated separately. The new company will be structured in the form of adjacent studios: one will produce ambitious programming across multiple genres for broadcasters and platforms while another will serve as a full-strength creative agency for major brands. Both studios will be supported by a third specialism in media data insight and the development of future digital networks.

Media industry contributions[edit]

In May 2011, Abraham set out his planned vision for Channel 4 at a Royal Television Society event in which he stressed the importance of its organisational independence and how it would keep innovating both editorially and technologically.[33] On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of Channel 4 in 2012, he delivered a speech at the Freeword Centre London entitled: Freedom of Expression and Free Television.[34]

In 2013 Abraham chaired the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention during which he announced a new £20m Growth Fund for UK independent production companies.[35] This fund has invested in companies such as Lightbox, True North, Arrow, Eleven Films and production entities involving Sacha Baron Cohen and David Coulthard.

In 2014, Abraham delivered the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.[36] The theme of the lecture addressed the continuing importance of public service broadcasting in the UK in an age of global and technological consolidation. The lecture caused debate within the media industry and was characterised by some as a critique of American ownership of UK media assets.[37]

Following the May 2015 general election, Abraham, together with Channel 4 chairman Terry Burns,[38] has spoken out[39] about the potential threats to public service broadcasting and to the UK creative economy in the event of the privatisation of Channel 4.[40][41]

Abraham is a Vice President of the Royal Television Society,[42] a member of BAFTA and has sat on the board of Creative Skillset since 2008.

Personal life[edit]

Abraham lives in London, is a father to two adult children and partner to Tiina Lee, Head of Global Markets and Deputy Chief Executive for Deutsche Bank UK.


  1. ^ "David Abraham interview: My baby, the sexy love child of Stephen". The Independent. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Interview: David Abraham: CEO, Channel 4". How Did They Do It?. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  3. ^ "CDP duo Sinha and Godfrey reunite for C4 ad". www.campaignlive.co.uk. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Shaper: MT Rainey - Business Shapers". Business Shapers. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Me And My Partner: Andy Law and David Abraham". The Independent. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Creating the Most Frightening Company on Earth". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  7. ^ "Discovery's Abraham joins TLC". www.broadcastnow.co.uk. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  8. ^ "UKTV Company Timeline | About UKTV | UKTV Corporate Site". corporate.uktv.co.uk. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  9. ^ Plunkett, John (19 March 2010). "Jonathan Ross chatshow deal shelved by Channel 4". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  10. ^ Plunkett, John (2 November 2012). "Frankie Boyle sketches 'wouldn't have been broadcast if they were racist'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  11. ^ Brown, Maggie (14 September 2010). "Channel 4 appoints Jay Hunt as chief creative officer". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  12. ^ Plunkett, John (23 August 2014). "Channel 4 wins channel of the year at Edinburgh TV festival". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  13. ^ "Channel 4 wins Channel of the Year at Broadcast Awards". BBC News. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  14. ^ Mance, Henry (21 December 2015). "Channel 4 snaps up live F1 after BBC ditches TV coverage". Financial Times. ISSN 0307-1766. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  15. ^ Sweney, Mark (11 September 2014). "Channel 4 to replace 4oD with new online hub All 4". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  16. ^ "Channel 4 to roll out new VoD service 4World Drama » Digital TV Europe". www.digitaltveurope.net. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  17. ^ "Film 4 renaissance set to continue". The Independent. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  18. ^ "Film4 funding increased to record $36m; signs Fox Searchlight deal". www.screendaily.com. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  19. ^ Pulver, Andrew (4 August 2014). "Film4 appoints David Kosse as director to succeed Tessa Ross". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  20. ^ Robinson, James (4 June 2010). "Channel 4 barred by law from buying Five". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  21. ^ "UKTV and Channel 4 agree 10-year ad sales deal - Channel 4 - Info - Press". Channel 4. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  22. ^ "CW500: Why Channel 4 is crunching big data". ComputerWeekly. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  23. ^ "Channel 4 announces 4seven catch-up channel". BBC News. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  24. ^ "Reaction to Channel 4's surprise appointment of Jonathan Allan". Media Week. 4 July 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  25. ^ "4 Sales named Media Week's Sales Team of the Year 2015". Channel 4. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  26. ^ "Dan Brooke confirmed as marketing leader of Channel 4". www.campaignlive.co.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  27. ^ "Channel 4 Board - Channel 4 - Info - Corporate". www.channel4.com. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  28. ^ "Case Study: Meet The Superhumans". D&AD. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  29. ^ "Channel 4 rebrands, with help from Jonathan Glazer and Neville Brody – Creative Review". www.creativereview.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 April 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  30. ^ Mark Sweney (1 January 1970). "Channel 4 confirms Alex Mahon as chief executive | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  31. ^ "Discover our Board". Channel 4. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  32. ^ Clarke, Stewart (18 April 2018). "Former Channel 4 Chief David Abraham Launches Wonderhood Studios". Variety. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  33. ^ "David Abraham's Royal Television Society speech: full text". The Guardian. 24 May 2011. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  34. ^ "Freedom of Expression and Free Television - David Abraham Speech - English PEN". English PEN. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  35. ^ Mance, Henry (21 August 2014). "Channel 4 takes stakes in TV programme makers". Financial Times. ISSN 0307-1766. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  36. ^ Abraham, David (21 August 2014). "David Abraham's MacTaggart lecture - full text". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  37. ^ "David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen". The Independent. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  38. ^ Martinson, Jane (8 November 2015). "Channel 4 sell-off would have little financial benefit, says chairman". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  39. ^ Jackson, Jasper; Sweney, Mark; Plunkett, John (13 October 2015). "Privatised Channel 4 would need profits of £200m a year, says chief executive". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  40. ^ "Channel 4 chief prepares for privatisation battle". The Telegraph. 13 June 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  41. ^ "It will be a grand prize for its buyer - but where is the formula to put a value on Channel 4?". The Telegraph. 26 December 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  42. ^ "Royal Television Society announces new appointments | Royal Television Society". rts.org.uk. Retrieved 6 April 2017.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Andy Duncan
Chief Executive of Channel 4
2010 - 2017
Succeeded by
Alex Mahon