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Amazon Names NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke to Head Amazon Studios--Update2-9-18 2:28 PM EST
By Ben Fritz and Joe Flint 

Amazon.com Inc. has tapped NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke as head of Amazon Studios, its movie and television unit, succeeding Roy Price, who resigned amid allegations that he engaged in sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior toward a producer.

At Amazon, Ms. Salke, 53 years old, will oversee a deep-pocketed and ambitious online video service with an annual budget of more than $4.5 billion, according to people at the company.

Its best known television series include "Transparent," "The Tick" and "Bosch." Its most successful films have been "The Big Sick" and Oscar winner "Manchester by the Sea." However Amazon has struggled to find broadly popular hits like HBO's "Game of Thrones" and Netflix Inc.'s "Stranger Things."

Among the challenges facing Ms. Salke will be improving relations with the creative community, some of whom criticized the way Amazon operated during Mr. Price's seven-year tenure. Several producers expressed frustration at what they called creative interference by Amazon executives, often leading to production delays and greater expenses. David E. Kelley, who created the legal drama "Goliath" for Amazon told The Wall Street Journal last fall that the company is "in way over their heads."

"What stood out about Jen was the deep relationships she has nurtured with creators and talent over her career," Jeffrey Blackburn, the Seattle-based Amazon executive to whom Ms. Salke will report, said in a statement. "She's built an impeccable reputation as a big leader who emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and teamwork."

Since Mr. Price left in October, Amazon Studios has been overseen by Chief Operating Officer Albert Cheng, whose background is primarily in technology and digital media.

Shortly after Mr. Price stepped down, his lawyer, Eric George, said the executive had never been accused of sexual harassment "with the sole exception of the incident alleged by [the producer], the portrayal of which he vigorously contests."

The hiring of Ms. Salke, who has run NBC's prime time entertainment since 2011, comes after a very public and drawn-out search for Mr. Price's successor. A leading candidate, Fox Television Group Chairman and Chief Executive Dana Walden, took herself out of consideration early on and another candidate -- A&E Networks Group Chief Executive Nancy Dubuc -- was also in the running. Fox's parent, 21st Century Fox Inc., shares common ownership with News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal.

In a statement, Ms. Salke said Amazon has "innovated, disrupted, and created characters that are already an indelible part of pop-culture."

One of Ms. Salke's biggest tasks will be overseeing Amazon's production of "Lord of the Rings," an ambitious and expensive series based on J.R.R. Tolkien's popular fantasy novels. Amazon won a bidding war for the rights to the series, which was given a multi-season commitment.

Ms. Salke has a solid track record as a television development executive. Shows developed on her watch at NBC include the drama "This Is Us" and the comedy "The Good Place." She also oversees Universal Television, the production studio at NBCUniversal which produces shows for NBC and other networks and services. NBCUniversal is a unit of Comcast Corp.

However, Ms. Salke has no experience running a world-wide digital business or in movies, both of which she will oversee in her new post. Amazon is taking a bet that she can successfully handle those new responsibilities.

Prior to joining NBC, Ms. Salke was a television-studio executive at 21st Century Fox. She started her career at Aaron Spelling Productions.

No successor for Ms. Salke was named by NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt. Other senior entertainment executives who will likely be under consideration include Pearlena Igbokwe, who is president of Universal Television and NBC programming executives Bruce Evans and Lisa Katz.

Write to Ben Fritz at ben.fritz@wsj.com and Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 09, 2018 14:28 ET (19:28 GMT)

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