How Amazon Studios plans to take on TikTok

October 12, 2021, 12:42 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! NFL coach Jon Gruden is out over offensive remarks, women are still facing a childcare crisis, and we report back from Day 1 of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit. Have a terrific Tuesday!

– One, two steps to take on TikTok. Jennifer Salke knows that Amazon has a lot of competition when it comes to keeping eyeballs on its media content. “It’s a huge challenge,” the Amazon Studios head says of reaching young people who consume much of their entertainment via TikTok and other platforms for user-generated content. “We’re not blind to it and we’re not going to ignore that challenge.”

Salke—who appears on Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women list for the first time this year—joined us for the opening night of Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit. She brought with her two of Amazon’s creative partners: singer Ciara and Rachel Brosnahan, the star of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

FORTUNE Most Powerful Women 2021
Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram interviews Jennifer Salke, Ciara, and Rachel Brosnahan at the Fortune MPW Summit on Monday.
Stuart Isett—Fortune MPW

With her husband, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Ciara has a first-look deal with Amazon Studios for their production company, Why Not You Productions. (Maisel star Brosnahan has a deal of her own for her Scrap Paper Pictures).

And both stars had thoughts of their own on how to compete with TikTok. Social media platforms create a “direct connection to fans,” says Ciara—and that pays off when it’s time to promote an Amazon project. “You can take advantage of the platform to have that relationship and empower your business,” says the musician.

Brosnahan, for her part, calls herself a social media “dinosaur”—but says she’s found much of the up-and-coming talent she cast in her Amazon comedy special Yearly Departed and other projects through their videos on these platforms. “It’s amazing not to have to rely on the more historic methods,” the actor says.

Salke is careful to clarify that she’s not breaking news for Amazon by admitting it pays attention to its nontraditional competitors. “You could look forward to more expansive genres across content from us,” the executive says, adding, “That’s not any kind of announcement or anything.”

But she did give us a sense of what other platforms Amazon Studios execs are watching in their spare time.

Thanks to Jennifer, Rachel, and Ciara for joining us for a fantastic opening night. We’ll see many of you back out there for Day 2 of the MPW Summit today. More highlights from Day 1 below.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Action. In addition to talking social media, Rachel Brosnahan on Monday also shed more light on her new production company Scrap Paper Pictures, which launched in January 2020. She said part of its mission is to get more women into Hollywood and to "pay it forward." “I'm the beneficiary of a lot of people at various points in my life and career saying ‘yes’ to me, taking chances on me,” she said. Fortune

- 'Flexible' is the new hybrid. Is your pandemic-era workplace 'hybrid'? Many companies have embraced the term, but Colleen McCreary, the chief people, places, and publicity officer at Credit Karma, says 'flexible' is a better fit because it lets smaller teams decide on arrangements that work for all members, rather than locking an entire workforce into the same in-office schedule. "Intentionally flexible," meanwhile, is the new catchphrase at IBM. Fortune 

- A new direction. The pandemic era has expanded the remit of corporate boards of directors in a big way. The change reflects how factors like sustainability and diversity are now baked into a company's financial and operational health. "The general role in the board has not changed," said Bonnie Gwin, vice chairman and co–managing partner at Heidrick & Struggles. "But I think the emphasis points for directors have changed, and the need to get into some of the details—that’s changed." Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: The United Arab Emirates named Maryam Butti Al Suwaidi as chief executive of the nation’s markets regulator. Yie-Hsin Hung, CEO of New York Life Investment Management, has been elected chair of the Investment Company Institute, the first woman and person of color to hold the position. Kristen Moody, previously of Teladoc Health, has joined Kindbody as SVP of client management and sales.


- Offensive comments. Jon Gruden resigned as head coach of the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders yesterday after The Wall Street Journal reported Friday on his use of a racist trope in a 2011 email. The scandal deepened on Monday when the New York Times reported that Gruden repeatedly used misogynistic and homophobic language over several years and denounced the league's female referees and its first openly-gay player. "I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone," Gruden said in stepping down. 

- Still in crisis. September was supposed to be a banner month for hiring, especially among women, as school reopenings reduced some of the childcare burden. But quarantining kids, the uncertainty around Delta, and the return to virtual learning in some scenarios, have muddied the picture. Last month, the number of women in the workforce shrank for the first time since December 2020. Bloomberg

- Staying on. Kristalina Georgieva's job as head of the IMF hung in the balance on Monday after accusations that she tried to skew a World Bank business ranking in China's favor. But the IMF board decided to keep Georgieva in her position after an investigation failed to convince them that she'd played "an improper role" in the 'Doing Business' report in 2018, when Georgieva was CEO of the World Bank. Bloomberg

- A worrying pandemic trend. A staggering stat out of the U.K.: 20% of critically-ill COVID patients are unvaccinated pregnant women, according to the National Health Service. Expectant parents are still wary of the vaccine, but there exists no link between receiving the jabs and an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth or illness, says Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Fortune


'Black Lady Therapists' are still a TV trope. But now they have more depth NPR

Running the Boston Marathon to remember Indigenous Peoples' Day Boston Globe

Mayim Bialik wants the ‘Jeopardy!’ job. Is she ‘neutral’ enough? New York Times


“We will live with COVID. We will never be a post-COVID world. What are our priorities going to be when we take the mask off?”

-Michelle Gethers-Clark, chief diversity officer and head of corporate responsibility at Visa, in an MPW Summit conversation about how companies are helping employees now.

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