Amazon Hires NBC Exec Behind 'This Is Us' to Oversee Its Studio

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Jennifer Salke, president of entertainment at NBC (center), with Dan Fogelman, 'This Is Us' creator and executive producer/writer, and series star Mandy Moore at the TV Academy FYC Screening and Panel Discussion at The Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
Jennifer Salke, president of entertainment at NBC  (center), with Dan Fogelman, 'This Is Us' creator and executive producer/writer, and series star Mandy Moore at the TV Academy FYC Screening and Panel Discussion at The Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC

Amazon has hired Jennifer Salke, one of the top programming executives in the TV business, to run its in-house film and TV studio in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations against her male predecessor.

Salke has spent the past seven years as president of entertainment at NBC, where she has put hit series "This Is Us," "Chicago Med" and "The Blacklist" on the air. The Los Angeles native also ran the Universal Television studio, overseeing the development of "Master of None" and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." Both of those shows appear on Netflix, Amazon's rival for streaming customers.

Amazon has spent months searching for a media executive who could overhaul the programming strategy at its studio, which has churned out critically lauded movies and shows like "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" but has yet to release a bonafide hit. The company spent more than $4 billion on video programming in 2017, according to analyst forecasts, less than Netflix but more than other technology giants.

That a highly respected executive would leave a broadcast network to run the studio of a streaming service underscores the seismic shift taking place in the way content is produced and viewed. Consumers face an increasing array of choices, from the traditional networks to cable channels like FX and streaming services like Hulu, Amazon and Netflix.

"I'm incredibly excited about the future at Amazon Studios," Salke 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."

Gender priority

Amazon made it a priority to hire a woman after the previous boss, Roy Price, resigned following accusations of sexual harassment by a producer of one of Amazon's shows. Joe Lewis, one of Price's top deputies, also left the company after an investigation into his behavior toward women.

Salke, 53, brings relationships with many of the top writers and producers in Hollywood, and will need need them to repair the fractured relationship between talent and the world's largest online retailer. David E. Kelley, creator of HBO's "Big Little Lies" and Amazon's "Goliath," described the entertainment division as a "gong show."

Salke began her career working for Aaron Spelling, the legendary producer of "Charlie's Angels," "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place," and has also worked at Fox. A&E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc and 21st Century Fox's Dana Walden were both in the running for the job, according to reports in entertainment trades.

"What stood out about Jen was the deep relationships she has nurtured with creators and talent over her career," Jeff Blackburn, Amazon's senior vice president of business development and entertainment, said in a statement. "She's built an impeccable reputation as a big leader who emphasizes creativity, collaboration and teamwork."

Amazon has invested billions in video programming to entice more people to sign up for its Prime service, which offers free two-day shipping in exchange for an annual or monthly fee. Customers who sign up for Prime spend more money shopping on Amazon.

Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said Amazon would increase its investment in video in 2018, and the company said in November it had acquired the rights to make a TV series out of fantasy franchise "The Lords of the Rings."

-- Bloomberg News

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