Sarah Barnett Stepping Down as AMC Networks Boss

Sarah Barnett - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Subject

There's a change at the top of AMC Networks.

Sarah Barnett, president of AMC Networks Entertainment Group and AMC Studios, will leave the company after Labor Day. The departure is amicable, with Barnett saying in a statement that she wants to "follow my curiosity" to another field. AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll will assume oversight of AMC, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV and the studio on an interim basis following Barnett's departure.

"This is a year that has confronted us with radical change on multiple fronts,” said Barnett. “After a lot of consideration — and with a slightly breaking heart — I have decided that it is the right time for me to follow my curiosity and leave things in the very capable hands of the outstanding team at AMC Networks. Shaping stories and connecting them to audiences alongside brilliant people inside and outside of this company has been a unique joy and privilege for the past 11 years. Ed Carroll and [AMC Networks president and CEO] Josh Sapan gave me many rich opportunities to build great brands and take creative risks in the pursuit of exciting television, I am so thankful to them for that. I leave with gratitude and huge affection for all my AMC Networks colleagues who will continue to make and do great things."

Barnett has headed AMC Networks Entertainment Group and AMC Studios since late 2018, following the departure of Charlie Collier for Fox. She joined AMC in 2008 when the company acquired SundanceTV as senior vp marketing. She was elevated to president and general manager of the channel in 2009. She moved to BBC America in 2014, where she shepherded the likes of Killing Eve, Orphan Black and Planet Earth II, before moving to her current post.

"Sarah came to AMC Networks more than a decade ago, when we acquired Sundance Channel," said Carroll. "She immediately put her stamp on Sundance with fresh, impactful storytelling like Rectify and Top of the Lake which continued when she took the reins of BBC America, growing Orphan Black, the network’s natural history franchises and developing the critical and audience hit Killing Eve. At AMC, she expanded the growing franchise of The Walking Dead while greenlighting new shows including Kevin Can F*** Himself and 61st Street, and she built a strong team to meet the shifting nature of our business. Sarah is one of the most versatile executives I have had the pleasure of working with — expert at programming, branding and team building, all with an eye toward the business of a rapidly changing entertainment landscape. She is also a truly progressive leader. We will miss her at AMC Networks."

Barnett's departure comes at a time when cable groups like AMC Networks are dealing with cord-cutting and the continued expansion of the streaming landscape. (AMC Networks has several niche SVOD services — Acorn TV, the horror-focused Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC.) 

She leaves in place a programming team headed by Dan McDermott, president original programming and co-president of AMC Studios. He joined the company in March after heading Lionsgate's scripted TV partnership with BBC Studios. Long-time AMC executive Ben Davis remains in place as executive vp scripted programming for AMC Studios and the entertainment group, which currently has 22 series on air or in the works, ranging from the Walking Dead franchise to IFC's Documentary Now!