The announcement ends weeks of feverish speculation about Duncan’s future at the broadcaster.
Duncan’s biggest challenge has been to ensure the broadcaster’s financial future and while recent possibilities seemed to include a tie-up with BBC Worldwide negotiations have not yet proved productive. Earlier this year Duncan and chairman Luke Johnson batted away overtures from commercial broadcaster Five.
Duncan (pictured), a former Unilever marketer, was appointed in July 2004 and his tenure has coincided with controversies such as that regarding management salaries and the Big Brother franchise. The broadcaster recently revealed that it will not renew its deal with Endemol for Big Brother and will axe the series after next year.
Channel 4 has announced it is investing in more original drama to help fill the airtime that relinquishing Big Brother creates.
Of his tenure Duncan says: “By any measure, it’s been a great five years, during which time we’ve punched well above our weight, out-performing our immediate rivals both creatively and commercially. Having coped with dramatic structural change and an unprecedented downturn substantially better than most, I believe Channel 4 is in a great position to face the future with real confidence.”
Regarding the broadcaster’s future he is upbeat and says: “”Our future as the main source of public service competition to the BBC has been secured, with the Digital Britain report strongly endorsing our vision for Channel 4 as a digital public service network and the updated remit we proposed due to be enshrined in legislation in the autumn.
“The publication of the Digital Britain report was also a natural moment for me to take stock and since then I have been in discussion with Luke and other board members about the future. Channel 4 is facing a further period of change, with a fresh regulatory cycle looming and with the cancellation of Big Brother signalling the most significant creative renewal in our history. We have mutually agreed that this feels like the appropriate moment for me to hand on the baton to someone else and to move on to a fresh challenge after more than five years at the helm. “
Johnson is also to step down at the end of the year after serving his fixed term and he says: “we will immediately get on with the process of appointing his successor. We will move swiftly to appoint headhunters with a view to appointing a replacement in due course. I have asked our finance director, Anne Bulford, to lead the Group on an interim basis in the event that Andy leaves before his successor is in place.”
Channel 4 Group’s share of total TV viewing increasing from 10% in 2003 to an historic high of 12%. driven by the major success of its digital TV strategy including the relaunch of E4 and Film4 on Freeview and the launch of More4 and 4Music on all digital TV platforms.
In 2007, Channel 4 became the first terrestrial channel to launch a +1 timeshifted version of its schedule and a full high definition service on Sky Digital.
Rival terrestrial broadcaster ITV is also without a named chief executive to succeed executive chairman Michael Grade. Discussions with former BSkyB chief Tony Ball are still ongoing.