The former director of future media and technology at the BBC has been appointed as chief executive of Kangaroo, the working title for video-on-demand service to be launched as a joint venture by BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4. Ashley Highfield will take over from Lesley Mackenzie, who has been managing the project on an interim basis.

The move had been expected for some time and last week informitv suggested that Ashley Highfield had been lined up for the position, which will take him from the head of a department with a £400 million budget to what is effectively a start-up operation.

A successor has not been announced, but Erik Huggers is a likely candidate, as suggested by informitv when he was appointed as his effective deputy last May.

“This is a fantastic opportunity,” said Ashley Highfield. “Kangaroo is a historic partnership with a combination of innovative technology and terrific content and I’m looking forward to transforming the way audiences watch television.”

John Smith, the chief executive of BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the corporation, welcomed the appointment, saying: “His knowledge in the digital media field is world class and he’ll bring tremendous strategic and operational expertise to successfully take the venture forward.”

Michael Grade, the executive chairman of ITV plc, the main commercial network in the United Kingdom, said: “Kangaroo will be an important shop window for UK broadcaster content and is another component of ITV’s exciting online strategy. I am pleased we have appointed a CEO with Ashley’s experience and expertise.”

“This is great news for Kangaroo and its founding partners,” said Andy Duncan, the chief executive of Channel 4, and a former colleague from the BBC, where he was head of marketing. “Ashley is one of the most influential players in digital media and emerging markets and the ideal CEO to drive this important and exciting project forward.”

The launch of the joint venture is subject to approval by the BBC Trust and the boards of the respective broadcasters.