You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NBC’s Jennifer Salke Named Head of Amazon Studios

After a long search process that captivated Hollywood insiders, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke has been named head of Amazon Studios.

Salke will oversee all television and film production for the digital behemoth’s entertainment arm, reporting to Jeff Blackburn, Amazon’s senior VP of business development and digital entertainment. She fills the leadership void that opened in early November when longtime Amazon Studios head Roy Price was forced out amid sexual harassment allegations.

“What stood out about Jen was the deep relationships she has nurtured with creators and talent over her career, spanning NBCU, 20th Century Fox, and Aaron Spelling Productions,” Blackburn said. “She’s built an impeccable reputation as a big leader who emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and teamwork.”

Amazon COO Albert Cheng, who has overseen the studio since Price’s ouster, will report to Salke. Amazon Studios film boss Jason Ropell and Brad Beale, VP of content acquisition, also report to Salke. Those four executives will work together in the coming months to sort out a more detailed management hierarchy for the studio division of the company that has an astounding $623.9 billion market cap.

Salke comes to Amazon after spending the past six years as entertainment president at NBC, where she helped bring the Peacock out of its long ratings slump with shows such as “This Is Us” and Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” trilogy of procedural dramas. The timing of her start at Amazon is still not clear, as Salke plans to remain at NBC during a transition period. NBC expects to name a successor — sure to come from within its ranks — in a matter of days.

“I’m incredibly excited about the future at Amazon Studios,” Salke said. “In the studio’s relatively short existence they have innovated, disrupted, and created characters that are already an indelible part of pop culture. I am both honored and emboldened by the opportunity to lead this extraordinary business. Of course, this is also bittersweet for me. NBC has been an amazing home – creatively, professionally and personally – and I leave there knowing that the work we did had groundbreaking impact.  It’s an exciting time to be a content creator, and I look forward to being on the front lines of an innovative business with storytelling at its heart.”

At Amazon, Salke will take over the creative leadership of a division that has been rocked by scandal. In November, two other executives — scripted chief Joe Lewis and unscripted head Conrad Riggs — followed Price out the door soon after. Amazon’s programming ambition has expanded quickly in the last few years amid the Peak TV rush. But the company has a spotty reputation in the creative community.

Beyond the executive turmoil, Amazon’s entertainment efforts have reached a crossroads with the understanding that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has issued a mandate for the company to pursue broad, big-budget fare rather than the arthouse-style fare that has characterized Amazon’s output to date — notably the groundbreaking comedy “Transparent” and parallel-universe fantasy drama “Man in the High Castle.”

The unexpected opening at the top gave Amazon a chance to reset the studio division. The CEO search became a daily soap opera for Hollywood insiders as speculation about possible successors was rampant. Although Amazon has a reputation for paying modest salaries and offering few perks even to senior executives, the chance to lead the studio operation for a company with the deepest of pockets and formidable marketing and distribution muscle made it a much sought-after job. (Not to mention the stock options at a company with a four-figure share price.) Amazon Studios took a big step to bolstering its operations just this week with the hiring of Warner Bros. TV alum Tammy Golihew to head series publicity.

A+E Networks chief Nancy Dubuc had long been engaged in discussions with Amazon. Fox Television Group chairman-CEO Dana Walden also had conversations with Blackburn and others until she bowed out in January. Producers Amy Pascal and Gail Berman, YouTube’s Susanne Daniels, and Annapurna’s Sue Naegle are also among those who were the mix early on.

Even without a leader in place, Amazon in November committed a whopping $250 million to a rights deal for the “Lord of the Rings” franchise with the goal of producing multiple series. Since Price left, Amazon Studios efforts have been led by Cheng. Sharon Tal Yguado, Amazon’s head of scripted series, has been leading the development charge the past few months. Amazon has made some big commitments in recent weeks, including a two-season order for a new take on the “Conan the Barbarian” franchise. It has also been cleaning house of programs that presumably drew small audiences such as the half-hours “One Mississippi,” “I Love Dick,” and “Jean-Claude Van Johnson.”

Salke brings to Amazon a big Rolodex and long resume of developing and producing shows. She joined NBC in 2011 as head of primetime programming and she oversaw the rebirth of Universal Television as a full-fledged studio producing for NBC as well as outside TV buyers. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt offered a salute to his longtime lieutenant and friend.

Jennifer Salke is a world-class entertainment executive and deserves enormous credit for helping put NBC back on top,” Greenblatt said. “This opportunity is the logical next step in her phenomenal career and we wish her only the best. While we will all miss her enormously, we will hopefully find many new ways to be in business with her at Amazon.”

As for Salke’s replacement, there was immediate speculation about a promotion for Pearlena Igbokwe, the president of Universal Television who previously oversaw drama for NBC. Salke’s role at NBC included oversight of network entertainment arm and the studio. But sources cautioned that several scenarios were under consideration involving existing NBC executives including drama head Liza Katz and comedy chief Tracey Pakosta. Whatever happens, sources said, Igbokwe is expected to remain at the helm of Universal TV.

Before NBC, Salke spent nine years in development at 20th Century Fox TV, where she shepherded such hits as “Modern Family,” “Glee,” “Prison Break,” and “Bones.”

Earlier in her career, Salke worked for Aaron Spelling Productions and for Columbia TriStar Television.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show premiere,

    Amazon Prime Video Signs Distribution Deal With Altice Europe (EXCLUSIVE)

    Amazon Prime Video has unveiled its first distribution deal with a telco in France, signing a pact with Altice Europe, which owns leading French internet, mobile and cable-TV provider SFR. The deal will give SFR customers access to the service via their set-top boxes, which is crucial in France, where households still consume content mostly [...]

  • Courtney Kemp Agboh'Power' TV show final

    'Power' Creator Courtney A. Kemp On Why Starz Series Hasn't Gotten Awards Recognition

    “Power” is a top ratings performer for Starz and has a hugely committed fanbase, but the series has lacked in its awards recognition. Other than honors from the NAACP Image Awards, “Power” has not received any awards or nominations from the Emmys, Golden Globes or SAG — something that star and executive producer Curtis “50 [...]

  • Breaking Bad Movie

    'Breaking Bad' Movie: Watch the First Teaser for 'El Camino'

    In case you hadn’t heard, Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Bad” is cooking up a movie sequel. On Saturday, after details of Netflix’s project quietly leaked online, the streaming giant issued the first teaser for “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which will be released on October 11. Starring Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, the “Breaking Bad” [...]

  • Breaking Bad

    'Breaking Bad' Movie Release Date, Title and Plot Revealed

    The “Breaking Bad” movie is coming to Netflix sooner than you might think. The film, titled “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” is now set to be released on Netflix on Oct. 11, according to a report from the New York Times, with Aaron Paul returning as the series’ popular meth cook Jesse Pinkman. Jesse [...]

  • Laurence FishburneNational Memorial Day Concert Dress

    Laurence Fishburne to Produce 'Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur' Series for Disney Channel

    Laurence Fishburne is stepping into the animation game. The “Matrix” star is set to executive produce “Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur,” an animated series which has been given the greenlight at Disney Channel. Based on Marvel’s comic book series, the show hails from from Disney Television Animation and follows the adventures of 13-year-old super-genius [...]

  • Aracne

    Chile’s Sanfic, Mexico’s Morbido Fest Pact to Promote Latino Horror (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexican horror festival Morbido and Chile’s Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) have agreed on a long-term collaboration intended to strengthen the genre film industry in Chile and across Latin America. This partnership will see Morbido representatives attend the Sanfic industry section each year to aid in the promotion of horror projects and advise those projects [...]

  • 'The Simpsons' Producers on Disney, Spinoffs

    'The Simpsons' Producers Talk Potential Disney Spinoffs, Confirm Apu Will Remain

    “The Simpsons” has never shied away from lampooning Disney over the years, but maybe that’s no longer the case. Homer, Marge and co. are of course now part of the Disney family and made their first appearance at the Mouse House’s D23 Expo convention, where the show’s producers were asked plenty of questions about what [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content