Amazon's Jennifer Salke Details Global Content Strategy, Russo Brothers Event Series

Jennifer Salke_TCAs - Getty - H 2019
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Jennifer Salke is going global with her ambitions at Amazon Studios. 

A year after taking the top job at the e-commerce giant's film and television outpost, Salke on Wednesday revealed to television critics that she is significantly expanding Amazon's international output by greenlighting more than 20 series from around the world, including the U.K., Germany, India and Japan.

"Part of the original strategy was about getting our hands around our global community so we could diversify the storytelling," she said of her international plans, calling it a "natural progression" for the company over the past eight months or so. 

A key piece of that strategy is the previously announced event series from Joe and Anthony Russo. Salke lifted the veil on a few new details Wednesday at the final day of the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, revealing that the show — which she described as a "groundbreaking, action-packed, character-driven spy series" — will be built around an international series that will then be followed by multiple connected local-language series starting with India and Italy. 

Joining the project as writers and executive producers are Midnight Radio's Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg. The Russos will direct multiple episodes, including the first. 

"We just think that soon there's a world where these hit shows can come from anywhere," Salke explained. "Something can break through creatively that can come from a number of places, including countries where English is not the language." 

For Salke, the global pushed is linked with efforts to diversify both at Amazon Studios and on its productions. The exec noted that the company has signed both the ReFrame and 4 percent pledges. "Amazon is committed to supporting stories that appeal to a global audience," she explained. "It's critical that those stories reflect the world around us and not just in our own backyard." 

Salke was joined onstage by co-heads of TV Vernon Sanders and Albert Cheng, who fielded a number of questions about Amazon's lineup of high-profile projects. But answers were scarce on some of the service's most-anticipated shows. A timeline for the forthcoming Lord of the Rings series? "Wouldn't you like to know?" Sanders joked. (The writers/showrunners are "making great progress," Salke offered.) An update on Wheel of Time? "That's a premiere date question, which I'm not going to fall for," Sanders said to laughs. A third season for Patriot? Cheng said they haven't made a decision but told critics, "If you want it, write more" about the show. 

The trio also fielded questions about competition with Netflix, to which Sanders responded that Amazon is "focused on what we're doing with talent" and being "focusing on what everyone else is doing is not a priority for us." Added Salke, "There's a lot of incredible talent that's signing on to work with Netflix and, likewise, Amazon." 

Salke also noted that Matthew Weiner's episodic anthology The Romanoffs was designed as a one-season series but that they are talking with the Mad Men creator about a potential future of that and other original ideas.

Although the day was focused on Amazon's television output, that didn't stop questions about the company's film strategy. Salke — who declined comment on the Woody Allen lawsuit — explained that the company will release some films directly to its streaming service, pointing to a recent deal to bring eight titles from Blumhouse to the platform. But, she noted, films that warrant theatrical releases will still have them.