The high-profile hire will help Participant rev up operations as Shapiro builds new TV wing from the ground up. He’s spent the pasteight years with the IFC and Sundance cablers, the last four as prexy.
Shapiro, who will split his time between Gotham and L.A., will report to Participant Media CEO Jim Berk.
“Expanding Participant’s brand of storytelling into television is both a natural progression and integral part of our expansion strategy,” Berk said. “Evan’s tremendous impact in transforming the IFC and Sundance networks combined with his genuine interest in socially relevant media, make him the perfect choice.”
Shapiro said he was drawn to the new role at Participant because of the shingle’s focus on socially relevant entertainment. TV can be a prime mover for influencing youth culture in a positive way, he said.
“It’s about the generation of millenials and what they are looking for,” Shapiro told Variety. “The mission allows us to go to different genres as long as we are true to who we are. Younger folks are focused on things being meaningful, and original content can get them engaged.”
Shapiro steered the growth of original programming on IFC and Sundance during the past few years. IFC in the past year has made a mark with hipster comedy series “Portlandia,” which earlier this month earned a Peabody award.
After a good run in cable, the opportunity to join Participant’s mission of raising awareness of social concerns through entertainment was too good to pass up at this juncture in his life, Shapiro said.
“There comes a time where you have to decide what you want to do when you grow up,” he said. “I turn 45 in a couple of weeks and when I started talking to Jim about what I wanted to do in the next 10 years in my life, I kept coming back to the mission of this company, which is that every day matters.”
Shapiro is not expected to be replaced at the AMC Networks-owned cablers. Jennifer Caserta and Sarah Barnett are the general managers at IFC and Sundance, respectively, and handle day-to-day operations.
“Evan is a dedicated executive and leader and under his direction, IFC and Sundance Channel benefitted greatly from his business savvy, creativity and boundless enthusiasm and energy,” said AMC in a statement.