To fill that role, Amazon has tapped NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, who will now report to Jeff Blackburn, Amazon’s senior vice president of business development and digital entertainment. Salke, who joined Comcast-owned NBC in 2011, helped the network revamp its TV lineup in recent years with popular series such as the critically-acclaimed drama This Is Us and the singing competition The Voice. In a statement on Friday, Amazon’s Blackburn said that Salke has “built an impeccable reputation as a big leader who emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and teamwork.”
Amazon did not say exactly when Salke would start her new position, but she will be taking over for Amazon Studios COO Albert Cheng, who has served as interim head of the studio since Price was forced out in October over accusations that he sexually harassed producer Isa Hackett. Price had overseen Amazon’s entry into the streaming entertainment market, helping to build it’s Hollywood arm into a competitor of traditional film studios as well as rival streamers like Netflix, with Amazon Studios spending roughly $4.5 billion annually on original programming. Price oversaw Amazon’s acquisition of award-winning TV series such as Transparent as well as independent films like Manchester by the Sea, which won the studio its first-ever Academy Awards last year.
Price resigned in October, the same month that several allegations against Harvey Weinstein led to the Hollywood mogul’s ouster from The Weinstein Company. Those allegations against Weinstein kicked off a wave of backlash against sexual misconduct by powerful men in Hollywood and helped lead to the “Me Too” movement and the Time’s Up campaign against harassment in the entertainment industry.
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Immediately after Price’s departure, Amazon had already been rumored to be dead-set on hiring a female replacement, with potential candidates reportedly including Salke as well as Paramount TV president Amy Powell, Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden, and A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, among others.
In her own statement, Salke said that she is “incredibly excited” about heading up Amazon Studios. “In the studio’s relatively short existence they have innovated, disrupted, and created characters that are already an indelible part of pop-culture,” she said. “I am both honored and emboldened by the opportunity to lead this extraordinary business.”
In addition to Price’s departure last fall, a handful of other TV and film executives have left Amazon in recent months, including former original TV series head Joe Lewis. The studio had faced criticism over the past year for failing to deliver a breakout hit TV series, with Price and his fellow executives even reportedly passing on popular and critically-acclaimed series like The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies, which went on to rack up awards for rivals Hulu and HBO, respectively.
None other than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly said last year that he wants Amazon’s studio to develop a global TV hit on the scale of HBO’s Game of Thrones. As such, Amazon reportedly agreed to pay a whopping $250 million to land the global television rights to the classic The Lord of the Rings fantasy novel series, with plans to produce a “multi-season” TV series based on the books for Prime subscribers and the potential for additional spin-off series. Meanwhile, just this week, Amazon was reported to be developing a new TV series featuring the Conan the Barbarian character once portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger on the big screen.