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The Five Spot: Jan Diedrichsen

SUNDANCETV has undergone a transformation over the past several years, transitioning from the home of offbeat and quirky independent films to a network that offers a growing lineup of original series. The change has been good — ratings are on the rise and distribution has grown more than 10% year-over-year, making SundanceTV one of the fastest-growing networks for two years in a row. That reach is expected to grow even further with its OTT subscription on-demand service Sundance Now, which has expanded to include independent films and series in addition to documentaries since its launch two years ago.

Running it all is general manager Jan Diedrichsen, a seasoned TV executive — he joined parent AMC Networks in 2001 — who has also worked at Fox Family Channel and Saban Entertainment, the home of international phenomenon Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Diedrichsen spoke with B&C contributing editor Mike Farrell last week about movies, branding and the TV business. An edited transcript follows.

You were born in Germany, grew up in the U.S. and received a degree from Indiana University in German with a concentration in film studies. How has that influenced you in your career?
When my family moved to the U.S., I was anxious to assimilate and going to the movies was my favorite way to get fluent in American culture. It was the ’80s, so I immersed myself in the films of John Hughes, Oliver Stone and John Badham. When I got to college, I was introduced to films and filmmakers from around the world, both past and present. I learned how ambitious movies can push the culture forward, like all great art does.

Do you have a favorite film? Genre? Director?
My tastes are all over the map, and I love any film in any genre that tells a satisfying story in an interesting way. If I had to pick a favorite director, I’d say Alfred Hitchcock’s films have given me the most pleasure. His movies are incredibly rewatchable and really stand the test of time. As for a favorite film, I always seem to come back to Alan Parker’s The Commitments. It’s certainly not the best film ever made, but I think it’s the one I love the most.

How has the airing of Amazon’s Transparent been received so far?
We’re always open to explore continuing opportunities for collaboration and Transparent is a show we’re incredibly proud to showcase on SundanceTV. Jill Soloway and her creative team have created a one of kind story that’s both specific and universal. And Amazon has been a terrific partner to work with.

The Sundance brand has always been known for high-quality and somewhat offbeat films. Does that help or hinder you when you’re looking for programming?
Having the power and legacy of the Sundance brand as part of our DNA is a huge advantage. Creators recognize that we’re a partner that’s willing to take risks on passion projects. And our willingness — in fact, eagerness — to experiment is directly tied to Robert Redford’s mission in founding the Sundance Institute. His vision continues to drive our brand principles.

How does Sundance Now fit into the increasingly crowded OTT space?
We’ve had a terrific response to Sundance Now, and we continue to be focused on what our members are responding to with the most passion. Increasingly, that’s original series. We’ve had a huge success with our French-language spy-thriller series The Bureau. And in the fall, we have our most ambitious slate of exclusive original series, including the Julia Stiles starring drama Riviera; a new comedy series from Veep writer Simon Blackwell called Back; and Rillington Place, a miniseries starring Tim Roth and Samantha Morton. All are fantastically entertaining and all feel uniquely Sundance.