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One of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and visionary executives, Josh Sapan sets strategy and is responsible for the overall management of AMC Networks, which owns and operates the following businesses: several leading entertainment brands including popular and award-winning national cable television networks AMC, IFC, SundanceTV, WE tv, and BBC AMERICA (operated through a joint venture with BBC Worldwide); feature film label IFC Films and Sundance Selects; and AMC Networks International, the company’s international programming and distribution division.
Named CEO in 1995, Sapan led the company’s successful spin-off from Cablevision Systems Corporation in June 2011, when AMC Networks began trading as a separate public company on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
Lauded by Fast Company magazine as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” Sapan’s record of delivering must-have content to passionate audiences, coupled with his championing of breakthrough distribution models, has transformed cable television and has changed the way people watch TV.
The recipient of the Paley Prize for Innovation and Excellence, Sapan is credited with building some of television’s most influential entertainment brands and shows that are at the center of what’s been widely referred to as a new “Golden Age” of television; shows including: AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Preacher,” “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Better Call Saul;” SundanceTV’s “Rectify” and “The Honorable Woman;” and IFC’s “Portlandia.” Vanity Fair has recognized him in its New Establishment Issue and as one of the “Impresarios of Cable’s Golden Age.”
In addition to spearheading AMC’s evolution from a classic movie channel into one of the most acclaimed and successful television networks, Sapan has developed IFC, SundanceTV and WE tv into offerings with groundbreaking content for targeted audiences. IFC has become a home for original comedies and leading comedic talent, including its series hit“ Portlandia” – winner of Emmy®, Peabody, and Writer’s Guild Awards – and projects from Seth Meyers (“Documentary Now!”) and Hank Azaria (“Brockmire”); WE tv has emerged as a leading unscripted destination with hit shows “Braxton Family Values” and the “Marriage Boot Camp” franchise; and SundanceTV, following its acquisition by the company in 2008, has transformed into a home for original programming including the Golden Globe® Award-winning miniseries “Carlos” and “The Honorable Woman;” acclaimed scripted drama “Rectify;” the Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award-winning miniseries “Top of the Lake.”
Sapan has been instrumental in bringing independent film to wide audiences through award-winning film distribution and production labels IFC Films, Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight. Recent IFC Films’ successes include the critically-acclaimed Boyhood, winner of the Oscar® for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and winner of the Golden Globe Award® for Best Feature Film, both firsts for the company; Weiner, the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winning documentary; as well as the Oscar®-nominated 45 Years. Other notable releases include Sundance Selects’ Palme d’Or winning Dheepan and I, Daniel Blake and IFC Midnight’s critical and cultural hit The Babadook. In addition, Sapan opened New York City’s IFC Center in 2005, the brick-and-mortar home for the brand and home to DOC NYC, the largest documentary film festival in the United States. He also pioneered the strategy of same-day theatrical and video-on-demand release which has fundamentally altered how independent films are distributed and is a model that is now widely used throughout the movie industry.
Earlier in his career Sapan spearheaded the development of the Bravo network. Launched in 1980, the network made arts and culture an essential part of the television landscape. Sapan’s oversight of Bravo’s growth included the creation of notable and culturally impactful programs including “Inside the Actors Studio” and “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” The network was sold to NBC in 2002.
Inducted into the Cable Center Hall of Fame, the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, and the Cable TV Pioneers, Sapan has been recognized with a wide range of honors including NATPE’s Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award, the Paley Prize for Innovation and Excellence, and, for his contributions to the advancement and protection of free speech, The Media Institute’s Freedom of Speech Award. Sapan has received an unprecedented three Vanguard Awards from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s (NCTA), for Programmers, Marketing, and the Distinguished Vanguard Award for Leadership. He has also received CTAM’s Grand TAM Award and Chairman’s Award; the Association of Cable Communicators’ (ACC) President’s Award; a PROMAX Brand Builder Award; the T. Howard Foundation’s Executive Leadership Award among many others.
Sapan serves on numerous boards, including the American Film Institute, The Paley Center for Media, The Cable Center, the Museum of the Moving Image, People for the American Way and WNYC Radio. On May 27, 2015, Sapan resigned from the Board of Directors of The New School University.
Sapan is the author of “The Big Picture: America in Panorama” (Princeton Architectural Press), a collection of panoramic photos from the 20th century, with an introduction by writer and critic Luc Sante and captions from celebrated public figures including Yogi Berra, Arianna Huffington, Bob Kerrey, Anna Quindlen and Martha Stewart.
He is a published poet, and also has the world’s largest collection of antique lightning rods, a selection of which is currently on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.