Barnett’s move comes after Sundance parent AMC Networks struck a deal with BBC Worldwide that gave the company control of the Beeb’s domestic cable channel. Barnett will oversee both BBC America and Sundance until a successor is tapped at Sundance. BBC America’s current g.m., Perry Simon, who helped birth BBC America’s first home-grown hit in “Orphan Black,” will segue to a production pact with BBC Worldwide North America.
“Sarah has had a remarkable tenure guiding SundanceTV through a dramatic evolution, taking the network ad-supported and establishing it as a formidable player in the scripted drama space,” said AMC Networks chief operating officer Ed Carroll. “Sarah’s appetite for creative risk-taking and her strong leadership skills are well suited to this new role and we look forward to her building on BBC America’s successes, as the network continues to establish itself as a showcase for high quality shows that resonate with critics and audiences alike.”
The move is no surprise, given Barnett’s solid track record in raising the profile of SundanceTV with buzzy original series such as “Rectify,” and longform co-productions with the BBC including Maggie Gyllenhaal starrer “The Honorable Woman” and Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake.” In fact it was the growing volume of co-production activity between Sundance and AMC and the Beeb that sparked AMC Networks’ $200 million investment in BBC America.
During Barnett’s tenure at Sundance, the channel launched in 1996 by Robert Redford as an extension of his Sundance Institute expanded into original scripted programming and shifted to a traditional advertising-supported model for the first time in the fall of 2013. AMC Networks’ predecessor Rainbow Media acquired Sundance in 2008 for $496 million.
Barnett “has a fantastic track record in the kind of intelligent, creative content that is BBC America’s hallmark. And as a highly respected, collaborative team leader I have every confidence she will deliver success for both joint venture partners,” said BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davies.
Barnett previously spent 12 years working as a programming executive for BBC radio and TV outlets in her native England. She then headed Stateside for a four-year run as VP of on-air marketing for BBC America. She joined Sundance as a marketing exec in 2005. She was upped to exec vp and g.m. in 2009 and to prexy in early 2013.
“BBC America is flourishing on so many levels and I’m thrilled to be returning at such an exciting time,” said Barnett. “I leave SundanceTV proud of the creative, dedicated team that has done a terrific job elevating and growing the network and I know many more successes lie ahead.”
Simon has been with BBC America for the past four years, and is credited with ramping up original production with dramas “Copper” and “Orphan Black” and well as savvy marketing of imports include “Broadchurch” and the ever-reliable “Doctor Who.” Simon will begin his production deal with development commitments from BBC America and AMC.
“Perry is a creative force and has led BBC America with dedication and distinction. His deep knowledge of development, production, scheduling and marketing – along with his hallmark determination and thoughtfulness – have been key in growing the channel and reaching new audiences,” said Herb Scannell, prexy of BBC Worldwide North America.