AMC Networks has overhauled the management of its entertainment networks, promoting BBC America chief Sarah Barnett to oversee four channels focused on scripted programming: AMC, SundanceTV, BBC America and IFC.
David Madden, who joined AMC and SundanceTV last year from Fox, will take on oversight of programming for the four AMC channels in addition to overseeing the AMC Studios wing. Linda Schupack, longtime head of marketing for AMC, will run marketing for the four networks as president of marketing for entertainment networks.
The move is described as a centralizing of operations at the company that is home to five U.S. cable channels and the growing AMC Studios operations. As part of the melding of previously disparate units, AMC expects to layoff about 40 people as they eliminate overlapping positions. It’s a sign of the pressure on pure-play programming companies like AMC Networks to remain profitable at a time of intense competition and skyrocketing prices for top talent.
We TV, the fifth channel in AMC’s U.S. group, will continue to be run by Marc Juris as president and general manager. We TV is outside of Barnett’s group in part because it focuses on unscripted programming as a lifestyle channel. Juris will continue to report to Ed Carroll, AMC Networks’ chief operating officer.
As president of entertainment networks, Barnett will continue to report to Carroll. Madden will report to Barnett on programming matters for the four channels and to Carroll on the studio operations. Rick Olshansky, AMC Studios’ president of business operations, and AMC Studios’ production president Stefan Reinhardt also report to Carroll.
The changes at AMC come a few weeks after longtime AMC chief Charlie Collier left the company to become CEO of entertainment for the New Fox entity that will emerge after 21st Century Fox completes the sale of major assets to the Walt Disney Co. Collier’s departure likely made it easier, from an executive turf standpoint, to centralize the operations under Barnett.
“We have been looking at the organizational structure since last spring,” Carroll told Variety. “We looked for ways to centralize going forward in ways that would keep us competitive and keep us sharp in our channel brand filters.”
Carroll and Barnett noted that there have been instances where AMC, SundanceTV, BBC America and IFC executives have separately taken the same pitch for a show or pursued deals with similar partners. In their view, AMC will be more efficient with scripted programming decisions flowing through Barnett and Madden.
“There’s a distinct advantage to going to market together across the four networks,” Barnett told Variety. “We are doing more and more to use our heft across four distinct brands.”
The overhaul has been in the works for months and was spearheaded by Jennifer Caserta, the former head of IFC who was named AMC’s chief transformation officer in May.
“Consolidating these networks under a centralized leadership structure will also allow us to recognize efficiencies that will put AMC Networks in a stronger competitive position as we move forward,” Caserta said.
At IFC, Blake Callaway becomes executive director overseeing the channel; he was tapped as interim head following Caserta’s promotion. Jan Diedrichsen will continue to oversee SundanceTV and the Sundance Now streaming service as executive director. Courtney Thomasma, one of Barnett’s lieutenants, will be promoted to exec diretor of BBC America. Marnie Black will expand her oversight of consumer PR to include BBC America and IFC in addition to AMC and SundanceTV.
Barnett has been with AMC Networks since it acquired what was then Sundance Channel in May 2008. She had been with Sundance as a marketing executive and then rose to become president and general manager. On Barnett’s watch, SundanceTV raised its profile with such original series as “Carlos,” “Rectify,” “Top of the Lake” and “The Honourable Woman.” She shifted to running BBC America in November 2014.
Schupack is a 17-year AMC veteran who drove the marketing efforts behind “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” the two dramas that put AMC on the map as a home for high-end original series.
(Pictured: Sarah Barnett and David Madden)