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Dana Walden Bows Out of Amazon’s Search for Studio Chief (EXCLUSIVE)

Fox Television Group chairman Dana Walden has bowed out of Amazon’s search process for a leader for its Amazon Studios entertainment arm.

Walden had been high on the list of candidates pursued by Amazon after former Amazon Studios chief Roy Price made a hasty exit in November on the heels of sexual harassment allegations. Walden is understood to have had substantive conversations over the past few months with Amazon brass including Jeffrey Blackburn, senior VP of business development and entertainment. Blackburn is driving much of the search process with help from Amazon board member and former MTV boss Judy McGrath.

Sources said Walden pulled herself out of the next round of discussions after the holiday break as it became clear that Amazon is looking for the candidate to start the job as soon as possible. Given the upheaval on the Fox lot at present, sources familiar with the situation said Walden decided that she would not be able to leave Fox, her home for the past 26 years, within a few weeks were she to be offered the Amazon Studios job.

Walden was a top focus of recruiting by Amazon brass even before she essentially became a free agent in December when Disney shocked the industry by setting a $52.4 billion deal with 21st Century Fox for its studio and other TV assets, although not the Fox broadcast network. That deal takes a cleaver to the network and studio turf that Walden and her fellow Fox TV Group chairman Gary Newman have overseen since 2014. Industry sources say it has become clear that Walden is among the seasoned Fox executives that Disney chief Bob Iger hopes to bring into the fold, assuming the mega-merger receives regulatory approval.

Until then, there is uncertainty and angst on the Fox lot as studio and network employees await word on Disney’s management plan for the enlarged company and the restructuring plan by the Murdochs for their remaining Fox assets. Last week, Walden and Newman made it clear in their Q&A at the Television Critics Association press tour that they feel a strong obligation to help guide the studio and network through the transition period.

The industry is keenly attuned to the who’s-in and who’s-out chatter about the Amazon Studios search process as discussions with candidates advance to a new level. Among those who are believed to be still engaged in conversations include A+E Networks chief Nancy Dubuc, YouTube’s Susanne Daniels, NBC Entertainment’s Jennifer Salke, and former Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal. Sources said Amazon’s focus remains on recruiting a female leader, although some men are also under consideration.

Amazon declined to comment.

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