UK broadcaster Channel 4 has appointed BBC executive Ian Katz as its programming boss following the departure of Jay Hunt to Apple last week. Katz, currently editor of BBC2 late-night political program Newsnight, has been named director of programmes at the Humans and Electric Dreams broadcaster.
One Channel 4 insider said Katz’s hire was a “massive surprise” as he beat out front-runners including interim chief creative officer Ralph Lee, BBC3 controller Damian Kavanagh and ITV Studios exec Angela Jain. The source said Lee had been the favorite internally to secure the role.
Katz has been at Newsnight since September 2013, having worked at The Guardian newspaper for more than 20 years. He will join C4 in January.
The hire has been labeled a “bold” move by recently appointed chief executive Alex Mahon, who joined the broadcaster from VFX firm Foundry earlier this week and previously was CEO of Shine Group. Another source added that the move was a “masterstroke” and that Katz would freshen up the broadcaster as it looks to compete with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.
However, the boss of one of the UK’s largest super-indies called it a “ridiculous” hire given that Katz never has run a television channel.
Said Katz today: “I’m impossibly excited to be joining a broadcaster whose unique combination of innovation, risk-taking and elan I have admired for decades as a viewer — and more recently as a frequently envious rival. Channel 4’s deeply held values and relentlessly challenging sensibility have never been more important or relevant and I feel incredibly privileged to play a part in shaping the next stage of its remarkable journey.”
Mahon called Katz an “inspirational leader who assiduously builds and nurtures talented and empowered teams.”
“He has fantastic instincts and intelligence, huge editorial strength and is a proven creative and digital innovator who lives and breathes the Channel 4 values,” she added.