David Madden may be exactly the executive that AMC needs right now. Madden, who has just been hired as the new president of original programming for AMC, Sundance TV and AMC Studios, is well-liked, creative, and has done it all as a producer, studio executive, and network boss.
The mandate for Madden (who recently stepped down as Fox Entertainment president) is clear: Like most outlets, AMC Networks is hungry to produce — and own — more of its own content. That’s why, in addition to overseeing programming for AMC, the exec will also do the same for Sundance TV and AMC Studios — the shingle tasked with producing more programming for the AMC Networks suite, which also includes BBC America and IFC.
“David Madden is a terrific, thoughtful person and a proven, tested executive,” said AMC/Sundance TV/AMC Studios president Charlie Collier, to whom Madden will report. “He’s known broadly not just for his leadership but also for developing and producing original programming alongside some of our industry’s most outstanding talent… He will have an immediate impact across our AMC and Sundance TV senior management team and, notably, our AMC Studios business as it continues to play an increasingly significant role for our networks and well beyond.”
As Fox entertainment president, Madden faced the same challenges all broadcast (and even cable) networks are struggling with right now: Maintaining relevancy as audience habits quickly change. At Fox, he quickly found success with “Empire,” which is produced by sister studio 20th Century Fox TV and was a slam-dunk for the 21st Century Fox conglom.
In-house production has become almost a necessity at the broadcast and cable networks as they look to control the back end of the series they program. As audience habits change, viewers sometimes don’t latch on to series until much later in their run, when they’re available on streaming services. If the network owns the show, they can decide when (or if) to sell those shows to Netflix, Hulu, or another source — or if they want to keep the show for themselves. If they’re licensing a show from a studio, it’s out of their hands.
AMC knows this conundrum better than most. “Breaking Bad” was an early signature series for the network, but was produced and owned by Sony. Ultimately, the Bryan Cranston series found new life on Netflix — where it wasn’t branded as an AMC show. Ultimately, Netflix got just as much (if not more) credit for making “Breaking Bad” a hit, which remains a thorn in the side of AMC executives.
But there’s also a different kind of challenge in owning your own programming, as AMC has also found out: Profit participants, who will invariably feel that a network that owns its own content is also self-dealing and not reporting a show’s true worth. That’s the complaint lobbied by original “The Walking Dead” developer Frank Darabont and his reps at CAA, who say they’re owed nearly $300 million in profits from the show.
More recently, “The Walking Dead” executive producers Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert, along with former exec producers Glen Mazzara and Charles Eglee, have filed a separate suit demanding their share of profits. The producers have promised business as usual with “Walking Dead,” but perhaps as a sign of strained relations, Kirkman ultimately moved his production home to Amazon this summer.
Madden’s long-time experience as a creator-friendly producer may help soothe some of those concerns. Prior to Fox, Madden spent several years as president of Fox Television Studios, which was known for critically acclaimed output such as FX’s “The Shield” and “The Americans,” plus AMC’s “The Killing” (which later moved to Netflix) and USA’s “White Collar” and “Burn Notice.” He also spent years as a feature film producer, and produced the 2004 HBO film “Something the Lord Made,” which won an Emmy.
“I just landed my dream job,” said Madden, who will continue to be based in Los Angeles. “The opportunity to play a leadership role at networks like AMC and Sundance TV, which live at the very highest end of television content, and at a growing studio operation, is the culmination of everything I’ve done to date in my career and something I could not pass up.”
Madden replaces Joel Stillerman, who joined Hulu in May as its new chief content officer. AMC’s upcoming roster for 2018 includes the new dramas “The Terror,” “Lodge 49,” “Dietland” and “McMafia.” Sundance TV has the limited series “Liar” and the non-fiction two-part event “Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders,” on tap for this fall.