Rooster Teeth, the WarnerMedia-owned entertainment division focused on sci-fi, gaming and fandom, is boosting its studio development team with the hires of two execs from the TV world.
Rooster Teeth Studios has recruited unscripted TV development and production veteran Wayne Sampson, most recently at NBCUniversal, as head of unscripted content. Scripted comedy exec Emily Hughes, previously with Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video, joins the company as manager of scripted content.
Sampson and Hughes both will report to Ryan P. Hall, head of Rooster Teeth Studios.
“Wayne has a proven track record of producing successful unscripted TV across many genres and is one of the most respected execs in the business,” Hall said in announcing the hires. “Emily is a tremendous development executive and her years of experience working with the top names in comedy make her a perfect fit for the studio.”
Over the past year, Rooster Teeth Studios has upped its output of original premium content for partners including Netflix, HBO Max, Cartoon Network, Discovery and Outlier Society. It also has teamed on collaborations with Hasbro, Turner’s ELeague, Scholastic, DC and Warner Bros. Consumer Products. The in-house studio’s slate includes “gen:Lock,” the Michael B. Jordan co-produced and voiced anime-style sci-fi series for HBO Max, and the “Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy” for Netflix, which will premiere part two of the series, “Earthrise,” on Dec. 30 worldwide. (The first installment, “Siege,” is already streaming on Netflix.)
Sampson previously was VP of programming and development for NBCU’s USA Network and Syfy. He joins Rooster Teeth Studios with over 20 years of TV development, production and programming experience in shows for USA, Syfy, Discovery and Spike TV spanning a range of sports, reality, game show, competition, interview and talk show genres.
Sampson began his entertainment career as producer of hit shows “The Biggest Loser” and “The Ultimate Fighter” and produced his first visual podcast show, “Joe Rogan Questions Everything.” In 2020, he created and produced USA’s “Straight Up Steve Austin,” touted as the year’s most-watched new unscripted series for male viewers, and social interactive game show “Opposite Worlds” for Syfy. For Spike TV (prior to its rebrand as Paramount Network), Sampson developed action-based content including “1000 Ways to Die,” “Deadliest Warrior,” “MANswers” and “Pros vs. Joes.” As Discovery Channel’s program development head, Sampson shepherded original series including “Airplane Repo” and “Dual Survivor.”
“After producing two decades of unscripted TV for networks, I’m thrilled to be joining Rooster Teeth Studios,” Sampson said in a statement. “What hooked me is working with such a dynamic brand, and having creative freedom to reimagine storytelling. We’re in an exciting period of entertainment development, and I can’t wait to explore how online culture contributes to the evolution of television.”
Prior to Rooster Teeth, Hughes worked in television development and production at Broadway Video, where she was involved with shows including “AP Bio,” “The Other Two,” “Miracle Workers” and upcoming series “Kenan” for NBC and “MacGruber” for Peacock. Hughes previously worked in TV and digital development at New Form, the digital studio startup now part of Whistle whose original investors included Discovery, ITV, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. She started her career at CAA in the TV lit and corporate communications departments.
Rooster Teeth, a pioneering digital-media player founded in 2003, is a subsidiary of WarnerMedia’s Otter Media unit. The Austin, Texas-based company has undergone major changes under WarnerMedia ownership: Last fall, Rooster Teeth laid off 13% of its staff and brought in TV veteran Jordan Levin as general manager as part of a reorg in which co-founders Matt Hullum, Burnie Burns and Geoff Ramsey took on new creative roles. In June, Burns exited the company after 17 years.