Josh Sapan abruptly stepped down at the helm of AMC Networks Inc., ending a long tenure as the cable-channel owner attempts to navigate a shift toward streaming and compete in a landscape dominated by bigger, better-known media rivals.
Sapan, who had been president and CEO for 26 years, will become executive vice chairman. In his new role, the 70-year-old will work with company leadership and help with its creative direction, AMC Networks said in a statement Tuesday.
Matthew Blank, a former CEO of Showtime Networks, will serve as interim CEO while AMC searches for a replacement.
Sapan transformed AMC from a sleepy cable channel known for showing old black-and-white movies into a home for critically acclaimed dramas like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” That helped usher in a new “Golden Age of Television” in which AMC competes with HBO, Netflix and other streaming services compete for attention and expensive Hollywood talent.
AMC’s zombie drama, “The Walking Dead,” has been one of the most-watched shows on cable for several years and fueled numerous spinoffs. But its audience declined in later seasons and Sapan has faced questions about when he would find his next monster hit. “The Walking Dead” began its final season this week.
AMC, controlled by the Dolan family, has long been the subject of takeover speculation, given its relatively small size in a consolidating media landscape. At times, investors appeared to confuse the company with AMC Entertainment Inc., a separate company, which owns movie theaters and whose stock has soared through social media.