Jennifer Salke has begun to make her mark on Amazon Studios.
The new head of Amazon’s entertainment division has shaken up her series-development team, naming Albert Cheng co-head of television. The move secures a prominent role for Cheng, who led Amazon Studios as interim chief following the ouster last year of former top executive Roy Price amid sexual-harassment allegations. Cheng, a former ABC digital exec, had previously served as COO of Amazon’s entertainment division, a role he will continue in going forward.
Sources tell Variety that Salke is in the early stages of recruiting a veteran executive to work with Cheng as co-head of television, but that no lead candidate has been identified. Cheng and his fellow TV co-head will be responsible for the day-to-day oversight of the business, creative and production units.
“I’m delighted that an opportunity for Albert to be elevated within the Television Studios has been created,” said Salke. “His business acumen, collaborative nature and clear goals toward continued success make him an invaluable team player as we move forward.”
Amazon has also set the series development team operating under Cheng, which was shaken up last year by multiple executive departures ahead of and following Price’s exit. Sharon Tal Yguado, who had been named head of scripted development in the wake of Joe Lewis’ exit, will serve in the new structure as head of genre series. She will focus on the development of science fiction, fantasy and supernatural-oriented series — a high priority for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who became personally involved last year in a more-than-$200 million deal to land the series rights for J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
Marc Resteghini will serve as head of drama, focusing on non-genre hour-long series. Gina Kwon and Ryan Andolina will serve as co-heads of comedy. Nick Hall will be head of alternative programming, including young-adult and specialty series. Georgia Brown will lead U.K. and Europe-originated scripted TV.
Melissa Wolfe remains head of kids programming. Heather Schuster remains head of unscripted.
Salke, formerly president of NBC entertainment, joined Amazon in February, following a lengthy executive search that focused on female candidates. She has since moved quickly to implement changes. On Sunday, Amazon canceled one of its signature series, “Mozart in the Jungle” — a winner of multiple Golden Globe and Emmy awards, but a show that matches poorly with Bezos’ mandate to shift Amazon away from niche programming and toward large-scale projects with the potential for broad appeal.