1:10pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Amazon Head of Kids Programming Tara Sorensen Among Trio Exiting for Apple (Exclusive)
Amazon Studios is losing three more key executives.
Tara Sorensen, who has been with Amazon since 2012 and served as head of kids programming, is jumping ship for Apple. She will serve in the same role at the tech giant and report to Apple heads of worldwide video/chief content officers Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht. Amazon Studios' Carina Walker, an international development exec, and Tara Pietri, head of business affairs, are also exiting. All three execs will begin their new roles with Apple in January.
The trio join Amazon's former head of international Morgan Wandell at Apple. Wandell exited Amazon earlier this year — before many of the former's top executives were pushed out amid scandal. Walker will report to Wandell and serve as an international creative exec; Pietri will lead legal affairs for Apple's worldwide video and be part of the content and internet services' legal team that is led by Robert Windom. (Philip Matthys heads business affairs for worldwide video at Apple.)
Sorensen was Amazon's second hire and originally started there as vp series development. During her tenure, Sorensen scored Emmy gold for youth programming series Lost in Oz and Tumble Leaf and nominations for Annedroids, among others. Her roster of youth programming at Amazon includes Just Add Magic, The Stinky & Dirty Show, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and Danger & Eggs, the latter of which earned critical praise for its portrayal of LGBTQ characters (the animated series was created by out transgender showrunner Shadi Petosky).
The news comes as Amazon Studios is undergoing a major shift in its executive suites after head of programming Roy Price resigned following sexual harassment allegations. Price's top lieutenant, Joe Lewis, and head of unscripted, Conrad Riggs, also exited amid controversy. Amazon is said to be looking for a top female executive to replace Price as the company shifts to focus on a global hit. To that end, Amazon recently acquired Lord of the Rings for a multiple-season TV series in what could wind up being the most expensive show ever produced. The future of Amazon Studios' kids programming unit is in limbo as the futures of multiple series remain up in the air.
For Apple, meanwhile, Sorensen's hire will take the iPhone-maker into the competitive kids programming space that has seen increased pressure on staples like Disney Channel and Nickelodeon from deep-pocketed streamers including Netflix.
Sorensen, who previously had roles at National Geographic Kids Entertainment and Sony Pictures Family Entertainment, joins an Apple staff toplined by former Sony Pictures Television execs Van Amburg and Erlicht. Since joining Apple earlier this year, Van Amburg and Erlicht have continued to recruit top execs including former WGN America president Matt Cherniss and former True Jack topper Michelle Lee, among others.
Walker has been with Amazon since December 2013, serving as a drama development coordinator and rising through the ranks to take on a key role in Amazon's international originals unit.
Pietri, a former A&E senior director of business and legal affairs, has been with Amazon since 2014. Before running business affairs, she headed legal affairs for nonscripted (domestic and international).
For its part, Apple has just begun to pick up scripted originals, with pricey bets on a morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, an Amazing Stories anthology from Steven Spielberg and Bryan Fuller and a space drama from Outlander showrunner Ron Moore.