Despite her recent career choices, Jennifer Salke is still a believer in broadcast.
“I don’t think that it’s on its deathbed,” Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said at a USC summit. “I think it is evolving quickly. But I still believe, knowing the amount of people we were reaching at NBC, that there’s a huge audience that still comes” to broadcast.
Salke noted the competition that broadcast now faces from streaming services and the bevy of other entertainment options targeting the traditional broadcast viewer. “It’s incredibly difficult, but there are really smart writers and producers working under contract with all these networks, and they shouldn’t be underestimated,” she said.
The Amazon exec was the keynote Saturday at the Gould School of Law’s annual Institute on Entertainment Law and Business, where she was interviewed by Bruce M. Ramer of Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman. Ramer asked her about her time at NBC and her decision to move this year to Amazon, where she took over as head of entertainment after the studio division’s previous chief, Roy Price, was ousted amid sexual-harassment allegations. Salke noted that her name had been speculatively linked to the Amazon job early on.
“I was obviously coming in at a time where the company was looking to hire a woman, people were sort of ramping up, ‘Who are the women who might get this job?’” she said. “That was all before I had spoke to anyone at Amazon or even thought about going there. But then once I did get a call to come talk to [Amazon product head] Jeff Blackburn here in Los Angeles, I did come out of that meeting knowing that we had a great meeting of the minds and connection.”
In her new position, Salke — a television veteran — oversees film and series for Amazon.
“It’s a tough business, and this movie business is a new one for me,” Salke said. Discussing the company’s feature film strategy, she added that Amazon will not be “crassly commercial,” but will take an audience-focused approach. “We want movies that will reach a wider audience while not sacrificing quality or excellence in any way.”
Salke also discussed her desire to program toward women — something she felt the previous regime had not adequately done. She talked about recent deals with talent such as Nicole Kidman and Reed Morano, as well as a show in the works from Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, and another from Blake Lively, that will exploit Amazon’s e-commerce platform. Both shows, she said, will allow viewers to purchase fashion products featured during the program.
“You could literally have the outfit delivered by drone,” she joked.