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 several leading entertainment brands, AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel, WE tv and IFC Films/Sundance Selects. The company also operates AMC/Sundance Channel Global, an international programming business, and recently announced its planned acquisition of Chellomedia, a group of television channels that are distributed to more than 390 million households in 138 countries.
Named CEO in 1995, Mr. 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 changed the way people watch TV.
The recipient of the 2012 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, Mad Men and Breaking Bad; Sundance Channel’s Rectify; and IFC’s Portlandia. Vanity Fair recognized him in its 2013 New Establishment Issue 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, Sundance Channel and WE tv into offerings with groundbreaking content for targeted audiences. Under his leadership, IFC has become a home for original comedies and leading comedic talent, including its breakout hit Portlandia -- winner of Emmy, Peabody and Writer’s Guild Awards, and projects from Will Ferrell (Spoils of Babylon) and Ben Stiller & Bob Odenkirk (Birthday Boys); WE tv has emerged as a leading destination for women with Braxton Family Values, Mary Mary and Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?; and Sundance Channel, following its acquisition by the company in 2008, began its transformation into a home for original programming including the unscripted Push Girls, and the acclaimed scripted drama Rectify and the Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning “Top of the Lake.”
Sapan has been instrumental in bringing independent film to wide audiences through the independent film distribution labels IFC Films and Sundance Selects. He pioneered a 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.
Sapan also 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 such notable programs as 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 and the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, Sapan has been recognized with a wide range of honors including, most recently, The Media Institute’s Freedom of Speech Award, for his contributions to the advancement and protection of free speech. Sapan has also received the National Cable & Telecommunications Association’s (NCTA) Vanguard Award for Programmers and its Vanguard Award for Marketing; 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; and many others.
Sapan serves on numerous boards, including those of The Cable Center, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) Educational Foundation, the International Radio and Television Society (IRTS), the Museum of the Moving Image, the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), People for the American Way, WNYC Radio, and The New School University.
Sapan is the author of a recently released book, “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 also has the world’s largest collection of antique lightning rods, a selection of which are currently on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.