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Vanguard Awards Distinguished Leadership, Josh Sapan

Lauded by Fast Company magazine as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” Josh Sapan, this year’s male recipient of the Distinguished Vanguard Award for Leadership, has transformed cable television and changed the way people watch TV. Sapan, who was named CEO of AMC Networks in 1995, led the company’s successful spinoff from Cablevision Systems in June 2011, when AMC Networks began trading as a separate public company.

In addition to spearheading AMC’s evolution, Sapan developed IFC, SundanceTV and WE tv. Sapan, a recipient of the Paley Prize for Innovation and Excellence, is credited with building some of television’s most influential entertainment brands and shows, including: AMC’s The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad; SundanceTV’s Rectify and The Honorable Woman; and IFC’s Portlandia.

Sapan also led the development of the Bravo network, which was sold to NBC in 2002.

Sapan has been instrumental in bringing independent fi lm to wide audiences through award-winning fi lm distribution and production labels IFC Films, Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight. Recent IFC Films successes include critically acclaimed Boyhood, nominated for six Oscar Awards and winner of the Golden Globe Award for Best Feature Film, as well as Oscar-nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier. Other notable releases include Sundance Selects’ Oscar-nominated Two Days, One Night and IFC Midnight’s critical and cultural hit The Babadook.

In addition, Sapan launched New York City’s IFC Center, the brick-and-mortar home for the brand and home to DOC NYC, the country’s largest documentary fi lm festival. He also pioneered a strategy of same-day theatrical and video-on-demand release, which has fundamentally altered how independent films are distributed. This model is now widely used throughout the movie industry.

A Cable Center Hall of Fame and Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame inductee, Sapan has been recognized with a wide range of honors including The Media Institute’s Freedom of Speech Award for his contributions to the advancement and protection of free speech; the 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’ President’s Award; a Promax Brand Builder Award; the T. Howard Foundation’s Executive Leadership Award; and many others.

In 2013, Vanity Fair recognized him in its New Establishment Issue as one of the “Impresarios of Cable’s Golden Age,” and again included him in its 2014 list.

Sapan serves on numerous boards, including those of The Paley Center for Media, The Cable Center, the CTAM Educational Foundation, the International Radio and Television Society, the Museum of the Moving Image, People for the American Way, WNYC Radio and 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.

Fun Fact:

Sapan has the world’s largest collection of antique lightning rods, a selection of which is currently on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.