At ITV, Bennett was responsible for overseeing editorial content on ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and the CITV channel, including all commissioning and scheduling across the channels. He acted as controller of ITV2 between 2006 and 2009.
Bennett will now be responsible for building on the success of BBC Three as a replacement for Danny Cohen, who became the new controller of BBC One in October.
Since Cohen took over the channel in May 2007, BBC Three has grown its share in the target 16 to-34-year-old age group by 58%. The channel was also recently named 'Non Terrestrial Channel of the Year' at the Media Guardian Edinburgh TV Festival.
Jana Bennett, the outgoing director of BBC Vision, said: "Zai is one of the most energetic and creative leaders working in television today. He brings with him a real connection with the audience, a deep understanding of the digital landscape and first-hand experience of running channels.
"His experience in developing original scripted drama and comedy, along with his fantastic relationship with presenters and performers, makes Zai perfect for this role."
Zai Bennett added: "I have had a simply amazing time at ITV with some of the most talented people in television today, but I am delighted to be joining the BBC and especially BBC Three. The channel is on fire at the moment and I hope to be able to continue to support everyone's great work on quality programmes.
"The BBC is the most creative broadcaster in the world and BBC Three is an essential gateway for younger audiences to its phenomenal work."
Since joining ITV in 1998, Bennett has held a number of senior programme strategy roles and acquired a range of hit programmes, such as Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, Celebrity Juice and The Only Way Is Essex.
He also recently secured highlights of the Ashes between England and Australia for ITV4 and gave Freddie Flintoff his first major TV series with Freddie Flintoff Versus The World. Prior to joining ITV, Bennett worked on the launch of Channel 5 and started his career at Carlton Television.