Media heavyweights line up to succeed Duncan in top C4 job

ANALYSIS: As Andy Duncan prepares to depart, Brand Republic rounds up the likely runners and riders for the soon-to-be-vacant Channel 4 chief executive role.

The confirmed departure of Andy Duncan from Channel 4 ends weeks of speculation over his future, but attention now turns to his likely successor.

With ITV looking set to announce Tony Ball as its new chief executive, despite a seeming slow-down in talks over terms, the unlucky candidates now have another role to target.

Numerous people touted for the ITV job will undoubtedly feature in the Channel 4 frame and, as an arguably more attractive position, many others could decide to throw their hat in the ring.

Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson, whose own tenure comes to an end later this year, today told The Daily Telegraph that Duncan's successor must have "considerable" and not just "traditional" TV experience, "a vision and understanding of the digital world", "different ideas and energy" and have "stature".

With that in mind, Brand Republic looks at the front runners, and a few rank outsiders, for the job (with odds provided by Paddy Power).

Real possibilities...

Peter Fincham
Currently director of television, channels and online at ITV, Fincham missed out on the Channel 4 chief executive job last time around and is currently the bookies favourite, (13-8), to replace Duncan. The former controller of BBC1 departed Auntie after taking responsibility for ‘Queengate' (link) and was installed at ITV in February last year.

John Cresswell
Though not officially out of the race to succeed Michael Grade as chief executive of ITV, its chief operating officer and finance director looks likely to miss out despite being a one-time favourite. The opening at Channel 4 might just be too good an opportunity to get out from under the feet of whoever does finally land the ITV job. Having faced a battle to keep ITV afloat in the face of huge losses and declining ad revenues, any travails at Channel 4 would seem minor by comparison.

Kevin Lygo
As director of television for Channel 4 since 2003 and the launch controller of E4, Lygo has more relevant programming experience than anyone on the list and is the 9-4 second favourite, according to Paddy Power, though there is a question mark over whether he would want the more politically demanding chief executive role.

John Smith
Having achieved a great deal of success at the BBC's commercial arm, Worldwide chief executive Smith has also been in the frame for the vacant ITV job, but given BBC Worldwide and Channel 4's talks over the last few months, particularly in light of the Digital Britain report and government support for a tie-up between the two companies, installing Smith, who has been in his job since 2004, in the top job at C4 could help smooth the path to an eventual deal.

Malcolm Wall
The former head of Virgin Media's content division has 17 years' experience in television management, including overseeing United Business Media's interest in Five before it was sold to RTL. Given the imminent digital switchover, his multichannel experience -- from three years at Telewest/Virgin Media, which included chairing UKTV and leading the launch of new channel Virgin 1 and the expansion of Virgin's video-on-demand service -- may give him an edge in the selection process. He could also be more than ready for a return to the industry after about six months out.

Stephen Carter
Having completed his 18-month government stint with the publication of his Digital Britain report in June, Lord Carter has been touted for numerous roles since. Andy Duncan's decision to stay until some time before the end of the year would fit well with Carter's six-month imposed exile from commercial activities about which he may have sensitive information due to his central role in Digital Britain. His support for a Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide tie up and his backing of C4's PSB remit also hold him in good stead. If he applies, his CV is equally likely to impress the Channel 4 board, boasting experience from Ofcom, where he was chief executive from 2003 to 2006, cable company NTL, where he was managing director from 2000 to 2002 and ad agency J Walter Thompson, where he rose to UK chief executive in 1997 after 12 years. At 8-1, Carter is well worth a punt.

Jana Bennett
Appointed director of BBC Vision in November 2006 and also a non-executive director of BBC Worldwide, Bennett is in charge of one of the world's leading multimedia content groups, commissioning, producing and broadcasting across BBC television and the web. She heads the BBC's television channels BBC One through to BBC Four, BBC HD, CBBC and CBeebies, and leads the four commissioning teams: BBC Drama, BBC Comedy, BBC Entertainment and BBC Knowledge. During her tenure, BBC TV programmes have gained critical acclaim across the world and she has been said to be on good terms with the current government. Bennett previously went for the Channel 4 job, missing out to Duncan, and a second bite at the cherry cannot be ruled out.

Jay Hunt
BBC1 controller Hunt has the PSB and commercial experience that could make her an ideal candidate for the C4 job. Having returned to the BBC just over a year ago, after spending just a few months at Five, Hunt already controls an annual budget in excess of £1bn, more than any of her commercial peers, but she could be tempted by the top job at the commercial/PSB hybrid.

Ed Richards
The chief executive of media and telecoms regulator Ofcom, which may face a dilution of its powers if the Tories are elected next year, may well be interested in a move. He has experience of politics as a former media advisor to 10 Downing Street but his lack of commercial experience raised concerns when he took the Ofcom job, concerns that will no doubt resurface if he becomes a contender for the Channel 4 job. Richards has had key input in deciding the future of Channel 4, championing its preservation but opposing its campaign to secure a slice of the licence fee. But Paddy Powers 5-1 odds still look pretty short.

Mark Byford
Byford is deputy director-general of the BBC and head of all of its journalism. He joined the BBC's board of management in 1996 as director of regional broadcasting. In 1998 he became director of the BBC World Service and went on to establish the BBC's Global News Division. Byford is in charge of the BBC's planning for the London 2012 Olympic Games as chair of the London 2012 Steering Group. With no immediate sense that his boss Mark Thompson is likely to vacate his job, Byford could be tempted by the chief executive position.

Angela Jain
Head of E4 at Channel 4 since 2007, Jain has turned it into a solidly performing digital channel with big hits such as 'Skins', 'The Inbetweeners' and 'Smallville'. She is also Channel 4's commissioning editor responsible for 'Big Brother'. While not necessarily currently viewed as a big hitter, one agency executive told Brand Republic: "Angela is well liked and a good internal candidate who deserves a wider role."

Outside bets...

Anne Bulford
The Channel 4 finance director will be installed in the chief executive's role, albeit temporarily, if Duncan departs before a successor is found. That she has the backing of chairman Luke Johnson to take on the responsibility of running the broadcaster is a good start, and an FD at the helm could be just what Channel 4 needs to shore up its finances, but the eventual appointment of a high-profile TV industry figure is far more likely.

Rupert Howell
ITV's managing director of brand and commercial for the past two years put himself in the running to succeed Michael Grade but, given the unlikelihood of that happening, like John Cresswell, he may be drawn to the Channel 4 job as a way out of ITV. Howell's previous experience lies in running advertising agencies, and he includes McCann Erickson, Chime Communications, Young & Rubicam and the IPA presidency on his impressive CV. While he is an outsider, he shouldn't be ruled out.

Pascal Cagni
Head of Apple EMEA aince 2000, Cagni was named earlier this year as a surprise candidate to succeed Michael Grade in the top job at ITV, however he lost momentum because of his lack of experience in running a public company. As one of the people also talked about as a replacement for Steve Jobs, Apple's current chief executive, Cagni may prefer to sit tight.

Tony Ball
The former chief executive of BSkyB has reportedly been offered the ITV chief executive role and could be installed in a matter of days, though no official announcement has been made. It is understood he is in exclusive talks with ITV to hash out the terms of his contract. If these talks were to fail, Ball would be a strong contender for the Channel 4 role having a proven background in commercial television, taking Sky to 7 million subscribers during his tenure.

Julian Bellamy
After returning to Channel 4 following a year as controller of BBC3, Bellamy has been head of programming at C4 for just over two years. Prior to BBC3, Bellamy spent eight years at Channel 4, working in various roles, including head of E4, head of factual entertainment, head of current affairs and commissioning editor of 'Big Brother'. Being something of a C4 veteran despite only being in his late thirties could work in favour of Bellamy unless the board decide a new broom is needed.

Sharon Baylay
Former Microsoft executive Baylay joined the BBC as director of marketing, communications and audiences in February this year. She replaced Tim Davie who moved to head audio and music. Her current role was held by Andy Duncan prior to him becoming chief executive at Channel 4, which could bode well, or badly, for her chances. Her digital experience would certainly tick some boxes for the C4 board.

Tim Hincks
As chief executive of Endemol, one of the UK's largest independent production companies, Hincks is well versed in all things C4. Alongside the recently axed Big Brother, Endemol's credits stretch to Supersize Vs Superskinny, Gok's Fashion Fix, Deal or No Deal and 8 out of 10 Cats. Hincks has been in TV since 1990 and became chief executive of Endemol in January 2008.

Simon Fox
HMV chief executive Fox became an unlikely favourite to be installed as the chief executive at ITV before taking himself out of the running. He was appointed by the high-street music retailer in 2006 and has been commended for diversifying its revenue streams. Given it was clear the ITV board saw Fox as a worthy successor to Grade, one would expect the Channel 4 headhunters to also look in his direction, but having ruled himself out of the ITV job only recently, the Channel 4 vacancy may have come along a little too soon.

Stranger things have happened...

Dawn Airey
As chairman and chief executive of Five, Airey's case for a Channel 4/Five merger was rejected by the government and decried by Johnson and Duncan. Recently profiled by Media Week, Airey was managing director of Sky Networks the last time the Channel 4 post was open. She went on to become chief executive of ill-fated media start-up Iostar before quickly becoming director of global content at ITV and then equally swiftly jumping ship to Five. Would she be tempted to jump once again to Channel 4. Too soon, surely?

Ashley Highfield
Currently UK managing director at Microsoft, Highfield has a pedigree in developing online TV from his time at Flextech Interactive, then the BBC and later the aborted BBC/ITV/Channel 4 joint venture Project Kangaroo. Highfield, recently profiled by Revolution, has no programming experience but it could be tempting for Channel 4 to bring his undoubted tech skills into the broadcaster.

Elizabeth Murdoch
The chairman and chief executive of the Shine Group has built Shine into a global TV player, not least with the purchase of the US production house behind Ugly Betty, Reveille. Shine produces UK shows such as Merlin, Masterchef, as well as Spooks and Ashes to Ashes through Kudos and Channel 4's Sunday Night Project through Princess Productions. As the daughter of Rupert Murdoch, one wouldn't imagine she'd be first choice for a job that entailed a PSB element, nor would one expect she would be particularly interested in the C4 role, but her success at Shine should put her on the list of candidates, if not one that could necessarily be landed.

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