Amazon appoints Albert Cheng co-head of TV amid team restructure
James R | On 11, Apr 2018
Amazon Studios has appointed Albert Change as the co-ahead of TV, as it completes its restructure in the wake of last year’s departures.
Former boss Roy Price and his deputy, Joe Lewis, were ousted from the online giant’s development arm, as Amazon responded to allegations of sexual harassment. In his place, Cheng served as interim head of Amazon Studios, until NBC’s Jennifer Salke was named head of Amazon studios in February. Her appointment signalled the end of Amazon’s cleaning of its house, and now, Cheng’s position is the first part of one final step.
Cheng, who is also COO of Amazon Studios, was previously chief product officer of digital media at the Disney-ABC TV Group, where he helped launch the Watch ABC app. He will partner with another yet-to-be-named co-head of TV, who will have joint oversight of the day-to-day running of Amazon’s TV projects, reporting to Salke – a set-up not unlike 20th Century Fox’s TV arm, which is run by Dana Walden and Gary Newman.
“I’m delighted that an opportunity for Albert to be elevated within the Television Studios has been created,” Salke said in a statement. “His business acumen, collaborative nature and clear goals toward continued success make him an invaluable team player as we move forward.”
Sharon Tal Yguado, who has recently overseen all scripted TV for Amazon, has now returned to the role of Head of Genre, as was originally intended. She will oversee hour-long event genre series, which is where Amazon’s major focus now lies, as it lines up its The Lord of the Rings series. Marc Resteghini, who was overseeing drama, is now officially Head of Drama (non-genre), with Nick Hall named Head of Alternative (including young adult and specialty series). Gina Kwon and Ryan Andolina will continue as co-heads of Comedy, while Georgia Brown, Amazon’s director of Original TV for Europe, has now been named Head of UK Scripted TV, retaining responsibility for EU Originals. Heather Schuster remains Head of Unscripted, following her appointment last year, and Melissa Wolfe remains Head of Kids Programming.
Jennifer Salke named new head of Amazon Studios
12th February 2018
NBC’s Jennifer Salke has been named as the new head of Amazon Studios.
The president of NBC Entertainment has been hired by the online giant, following the ousting of its former chief, Roy Price, amid sexual harrassment allegations and Amazon’s connection to The Weinstein Company. Amazon responded by cutting ties to TWC and quickly cleaning house, with a number of staff leaving, and the studio has since focused on bringing in female talent to head up its production team.
Heather Schuster has risen to become the new head of unscripted programming, while former AMC VP Unscripted Tracey Lentz has been appointed head of creative unscripted, reporting to Schuster. Sharon Tal Yguado is in charge of all scripted development at Amazon, working alongside COO Albert Cheng, who has served as interim studio head since Price’s departure. Cheng will now report to Salke, as will Amazon Studios film chief Jason Ropell.
“What stood out about Jen was the deep relationships she has nurtured with creators and talent over her career, spanning NBCU, Twentieth Century Fox, and Aaron Spelling Productions,” said Jeff Blackburn, SVP Business Development & Entertainment at Amazon. “She’s built an impeccable reputation as a big leader who emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and teamwork.”
Salke was one of the frontrunners for the job, along with A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, with Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden and film execs such as Amy Pascal were also thought to have been considered for the role.
“I’m incredibly excited about the future at Amazon Studios,” Salke has said in a statement. “In the studio’s relatively short existence they have innovated, disrupted, and created characters that are already an indelible part of pop-culture. I am both honored and emboldened by the opportunity to lead this extraordinary business. Of course, this is also bittersweet for me. NBC has been an amazing home – creatively, professionally and personally – and I leave there knowing that the work we did had groundbreaking impact. It’s an exciting time to be a content creator, and I look forward to being on the front lines of an innovative business with storytelling at its heart.”
Salke’s work at NBC saw her oversee such programmes as This Is Us and the Chicago franchise. Before NBC, she was EVP of Creative Affairs at 20th Century Fox TV, where she oversaw the development of such series as Glee and Modern Family. NBC is expected to name Salke’s replacement in the coming week.
“Jennifer Salke is a world class entertainment executive and deserves enormous credit for helping put NBC back on top,” commented NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. “This opportunity is the logical next step in her phenomenal career and we wish her only the best. While we will all miss her enormously, we will hopefully find many new ways to be in business with her at Amazon.”
Heather Schuster promoted as top male execs exit Amazon
25th October 2017
Heather Schuster, Tracey Lentz and Sharon Tal Yguado currently hold prominent positions running Amazon Studios, following the exit of several top male execs.
It’s been a tumultuous month for the fledgling studio, as Amazon cleans house in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal and other production issues. Amazon Studios head Roy Price was suspended two weeks ago, after The Man in the High Castle producer Isa Hackett made public allegations that he had sexually harassed her. Since then, several top male figures at the studio have followed him out of the door.
Head of Half Hour and Drama Joe Lewis left shortly after Price’s exit was made permanent. Lewis, who was promoted to the position after overseeing development of shows including Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, has been the subject of media reports of potential conflicts of interest, such as the casting of his girlfriend, Yara Martinez, in The Tick.
A day later, Amazon Studios’ head of unscripted programming, Conrad Riggs also departed the studio. Deadline reports that Riggs may have been on shaky ground, with sources complaining to the site about his management style. Riggs, who played a key role in bringing The Grand Tour to the streaming service, has also been behind such shows as All or Nothing, Eat the World, Novak and American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story, none of which have gained huge followings among TV audiences.
The rapid string of departures, though, has marked a welcome turnaround in staff diversity at Amazon Studios, which will hopefully lead to a needed change in values, gender equality and staff treatment, in an industry where male authority and abuse has traditionally been the order of the day.
Amazon has now hired Heather Schuster as its new head of unscripted programming, promoting her from a senior creative executive. Schuster was a producer on the US version of The Apprentice, and SVP of creative affairs at Reveille/Shine America.
Former AMC VP Unscripted Tracey Lentz has also been appointed head of creative unscripted, reporting to Schuster.
Sharon Tal Yguado, meanwhile, is currently in charge of all scripted development at Amazon, working alongside COO Albert Cheng, who took over from Price on an interim basis, following his initial suspension.