Sony Pictures Television Chairman Mike Hopkins is departing his post at the industry’s largest independent TV studio to oversee Amazon’s video entertainment operations, including Amazon Studios and Prime Video, effective Feb. 24.
Current Amazon Studios head Jen Salke will report to Hopkins, who will report directly to Amazon chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos. Amazon’s senior vice president of business development and digital entertainment Jeff Blackburn, whom Salke currently reports to and who oversees the e-commerce giant’s streaming platform, is on sabbatical. Salke, who joined Amazon in 2018, is expected to remain fully engaged with the creative community. Hopkins’ background is in distribution and business development.
“Mike comes to us with over 20 years of industry experience at Fox, Hulu and Sony,” wrote Blackburn in an internal memo. “He has an extensive track record as a global business leader in media, film and TV — negotiating landmark content and distribution agreements, running marketing operations, leading product/tech teams, and overseeing production of breakthrough television content. I have had the pleasure of working closely with many of you as we’ve built these video businesses from the ground up. You’ve created a global streaming service and award-winning original content that our customers love. And I know you’re only getting started. I’m so excited for Mike to join Jen and Greg [Hart], and the broader video leadership team, and build upon the global momentum we’ve experienced in 2019.”
Worldwide Amazon Video vice president Greg Hart will also report to Hopkins.
Hopkins boarded Sony’s TV studio in late 2017 after spending four years as CEO of Hulu. He is credited with fortifying and streamlining Sony Pictures TV’s operations, which in recent years has merged its media networks, television distribution and home entertainment businesses.
Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Tony Vinciquerra announced Hopkins’ departure in a memo to staff Monday, writing, “I want to thank Mike for his outstanding leadership since arriving at the studio in late 2017. From day one he was charged with rethinking the way we run our television businesses. Under his watch, SPT has been transformed into a stronger and more nimble organization, able to pivot and change course quickly in today’s rapidly evolving entertainment landscape.”
Vinciquerra told Variety last year that he had brought on Hopkins — who had worked for Vinciquerra during a previous tenure at Fox Networks Group — to perform much-needed “triage and cleanup” on the company’s TV business, which unlike many of its vertically integrated peers is not tied to a network or streamer.
The move to Amazon will place Hopkins squarely back in the so-called streaming wars after his time at Sony, during which he and the Sony management team decided not to pursue direct-to-consumer streaming in favor of super-serving niche markets through platforms like anime streamer Funimation. Hopkins’ move to Amazon could fuel speculation that Amazon is looking to expand its Amazon Prime Video Channels business. Building out a channels and live TV business was one of Hopkins’ signature accomplishments at Hulu.
Now that Hopkins has decamped from Sony, its TV division will undergo some restructuring, with president of worldwide distribution Keith LeGoy now overseeing Funimation and Sony’s network operations, programming and strategy group. Jeff Frost, Sony’s president of U.S. production, will now lead First Run Television, Embassy Row and the new game show development team run by Mike Richards.
LeGoy and Frost — as well as the international production business, Silvergate, GSN, Sony’s India networks business, “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” — will report to Vinciquerra.
It is unclear when or if Blackburn will return to Amazon, though a source with knowledge of the situation indicates that should Blackburn return, it would likely be in a different role than the one he previously held.
Read Vinciquerra’s memo below:
I’m writing to make you aware that Mike Hopkins will be leaving Sony Pictures later this month to take on an exciting new challenge overseeing Amazon’s video entertainment businesses – including Prime Video and Amazon Studios, reporting directly to Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos. Obviously, this move represents a significant change for our senior leadership team and the studio, but we support Mike’s decision and look forward to the many opportunities to stay connected working together in the future.
I want to thank Mike for his outstanding leadership since arriving at the studio in late 2017. From day one he was charged with rethinking the way we run our television businesses. Under his watch, SPT has been transformed into a stronger and more nimble organization, able to pivot and change course quickly in today’s rapidly evolving entertainment landscape. As part of our “Reimagine” efforts, SPT has undergone essential structural change and realignment – such as combining our networks operations with distribution/home entertainment into a new territory management model and refocusing our network portfolio. Additionally, SPT has made several significant deals on the M&A front and forged new relationships with top creators and talent. These were not small tasks and would not have been possible without the outstanding work of SPT’s excellent divisional leadership and their teams, who will continue to drive our business forward.
As a result of these efforts, our television business will thrive and grow in key priority areas, such as U.S. and international production, distribution, our already outstanding game show businesses, kids programming, our newly combined anime groups and our strong regional networks businesses – especially in India and Latin America.
Having accomplished the bulk of what we set out to do over the last couple years, and with much of the heavy lifting behind us, we will be taking the opportunity of Mike’s departure to realign our leadership structure at SPT.
Keith LeGoy, our President of Worldwide Distribution, will now oversee Funimation and our Networks Operations, Programming and Strategy group.
Jeff Frost, our President of U.S. Production will now oversee First Run Television, Embassy Row and our new game show development team run by Mike Richards.
Keith and Jeff will now report directly to me. As will our International Production business, Silvergate, GSN, our India networks business, and Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!
Please join me in thanking Mike for his numerous contributions and wishing him continued success. If you have any questions, please reach out to me or your respective executive leaders or P&O partners.