Sarah Barnett, David Madden Promoted as AMC Centralizes Leadership Team

Sarah Barnett - David Madden-Publicity-Split-H 2018
Courtesy of AMC

Weeks after AMC president Charlie Collier departed to run "New Fox," the cable network is restructuring to create a more centralized team of executives. As part of the plan, Sarah Barnett, David Madden and Linda Schupack have been promoted to take on key oversight of AMC Networks' AMC, BBC America, IFC and Sundance TV. As part of the centralized leadership team, sources say around 40 positions will be eliminated.

BBC America president and GM Barnett has added oversight of AMC, SundanceTV (which she originally oversaw) and comedy-focused sibling network IFC to her purview. As president of entertainment networks for the company, Barnett will also have oversight of SVOD service AMC Premiere. Barnett will continue to report to AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll. WEtv, the fifth cable network in the AMC portfolio, will remain under president and GM Marc Juris (who reports to Carroll).

"Sarah is an incredibly talented executive who has distinguished herself leading BBC America and, before that, SundanceTV, to new heights with acclaimed shows that have redefined each brand,” Carroll said Monday in a statement. “She stands out for being an inspired thinker and innovator who brings a deep knowledge of the business, strong creative instincts and excellent leadership skills to this new role, and she’s well-positioned to make even more significant contributions to our success as we strategically shift to an enterprise-wide structure across our scripted entertainment networks.”

Additionally, Madden — who joined the company as programming president of AMC and Sundance in September 2017 — has added oversight of BBC America and IFC to his purview. In his new role as head of programming, Madden will report to Barnett. Additionally, Madden will now serve as head of programming for AMC Studios, reporting to Carroll and AMC Studios president of business operations Rick Olshansky and AMC Studios president of production Stefan Reinhardt. AMC Studios is becoming an increasingly important division of AMC Networks, with the unit currently searching for a financial partner to team with on its upcoming Walking Dead movie slate starring Andrew Lincoln.

"I’m privileged to work closely with David, whose creative chops and deep experience and relationships are going to fuel our forward momentum. David is a singular talent and I can’t wait to work more closely with him," Barnett said.

Also as part of the restructuring, Schupack — currently executive vp marketing at AMC and Sundance — has been promoted to the new role of president of marketing, entertainment networks. Like Barnett and Madden, Schupack will have marketing oversight at AMC, BBC America, Sundance and IFC. Schupack, a 17-year AMC veteran, will report to Barnett.

“Linda is a clear leader in entertainment marketing, having engaged fans over many years across some of the most iconic and well-known series in television history," Barnett said. "Her innovation in blending performance marketing with consistent creative excellence is exactly what is needed for the changing landscape of entertainment.”

The new structure — which was in the works before Collier's departure — follows the May news that saw IFC president and GM Jennifer Caserta move to a new corporate role as chief transformation officer at AMC Networks.

"This new management structure will enable us to better operate and leverage the strength of our entertainment networks as we continue to position the company to take advantage of new opportunities,” Caserta said. “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.”

The move to centralize leadership for multiple networks under one executive regime follows a similar effort at NBCUniversal's cable arm, which sees Chris McCumber and his team take on oversight of scripted at USA Network and Syfy, for example.

With the leadership shake-up, the following executives will now report directly to Barnett:

  • Blake Callaway, executive director, who will continue to oversee IFC.
  • Jan Diedrichsen, executive director, who will continue to oversee SundanceTV and the Sundance Now streaming service.
  • Courtney Thomasma, who will be promoted to executive director, overseeing BBC America.
  • Marnie Black, executive vp, PR, who will continue to oversee all consumer public relations functions for AMC, SundanceTV and Sundance Now, and expand her responsibility to now include BBC America and IFC.
  • Tom Halleen, executive vp, programming strategy, acquisitions and scheduling, will continue to oversee scheduling, acquisitions, and promo planning & strategy functions across AMC and SundanceTV, and expand his responsibility to now include BBC America, IFC and WE tv.
  • Mac McKean, executive vp, innovation, who will continue to oversee AMC Premiere and expand his responsibility for digital, gaming and new products across AMC, BBC America, SundanceTV and IFC.

Below, Carroll and Barnett talk with The Hollywood Reporter about the restructuring. 

Why do this as a centralized leadership vs. straight replacement of Collier?

Carroll: We had been talking about all those designs for a while. We brought about four dozen of our senior managers together in the summer and we looked at how the marketplace is changing; how we wanted to evolve to continue to be nimble and have quick decision making; but also to leverage our decision making. If you look at original productions, for example, we had distinct teams and we could sometimes take the same pitch from producers and writers AMC, to BBC America to SundanceTV. And we wanted to streamline and we wanted to have one person, David Madden — who is well seasoned — to have a view of the entire market. And similar conversations around marketing and scheduling and acquisitions. That was the thinking.

What does this say about the marketplace in 2018?

Carroll: It says that it moves more quickly. It says that there is more competition than ever for high-quality drama. But I think it goes to our strengths. AMC Networks has always been defined by our distinctive programing. That dates back from a decade ago when we put some of the original series on that helped define the so-called New Golden Age of Television and it continues now with Better Call Saul and The Walking Dead. This year we had two of the most successful launches of new dramatic series on basic cable — The Terror on AMC and Killing Eve on BBC America. So, we're always looking to sharpen the lens; we're always looking to have a competitive edge. It helps us to do that. Sarah was part of the SundanceTV acquisition, which was fortunate for us, then moved over to BBC America. Among the shows that she's developed and shepherded for us are Rectify and Top of the Lake, Honorable Woman, Orphan Black and Killing Eve. We think that she'll be in the perfect spot for us.

Sarah, your job now is to differentiate and expand these four brands. How do you envision each brand?

Barnett: Building off of the strength they've always had, they're very distinct and have always meant an awful lot to the audiences, affiliates and advertisers that come to them. Evolution and being re-energized has always been in the DNA of this company and the programming strategy for AMC has always continued to change, throwing up great jewels and quite varied shows along the way, from Better Call Saul, Preacher and The Walking Dead, which is the biggest show on cable TV for quite a while now. The other three brands will continue as BBC America, Sundance and IFC have evolved and shape-shifted along the way and cleaved to a purpose and essence about what their brand really is. That won't change. They'll remain distinct and keep evolving.  

Do you keep them in their current lane or do these evolve? How do you envision their evolution?

Barnett: Right now, they're in good health. I think about shows like Documentary Now and Brockmire on IFC, and we're proud of Killing Eve and the natural history shows and the reinvention of Doctor Who on BBC America. Right now, everything is pretty energized. We're all like sharks, we have to keep moving. It will be exciting to see how these brands continue to shape-shift with this new leadership team.

AMC is an independent player and has been considered a ripe acquisition target. Ed, where do you see the company three to five years from now? Is it still an independent or do you put yourself on the block?

Carroll: When you look at the overall media landscape, it's very hard to predict. I don't know who among us would have thought that the Disney-Fox thing would be happening 12 months ago. I don't think I'm going to venture a guess. What I do think is that if you have programs of distinction and shows that audiences care about, then you're going to be in a good position in any ecosystem. That's the thing that Sarah and I will be focused on.

As you look for a partner for the Walking Dead films that were announced Sunday night, how will that influence your growth plans for AMC Studios?

Carroll: The studio, first and foremost, is about developing and producing great television. So, films is a bit of a departure for us, but it is a premeditated effort to expand The Walking Dead so that it becomes multiplatform, multi-generation. That's the thinking behind pushing to a new front.

Any update on partner for those films?

Not today.