Amazon Suspends Top Exec Roy Price in Wake of Harassment Claim

Roy Price - H 2014
Jose Mandojana

Roy Price - H 2014

Roy Price, vp Amazon Studios and global head of Prime Video content, has been suspended from the retail giant and streaming platform following a harassment claim from one of the company's producers. 

"Roy Price is on leave of absence effective immediately," an Amazon spokesperson said Thursday in a statement.
In Price's absence, chief operating officer Albert Cheng will step in. Cheng joined Amazon in June 2015, coming from Disney/ABC. During his time at the latter, he led the company's efforts to bring programming to digital platforms.

The move to suspend Price comes mere hours after Isa Hackett, a producer on Amazon's The Man in the High Castle and Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, detailed in an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Reporter her "shocking and surreal" experience with the programming chief in July 2015. "You will love my dick," Price said, according to Hackett, who relayed her account to others. The producer says she reported the incident immediately to Amazon executives. An outside investigator, Public Interest Investigations Inc.'s Christine Farrell, was brought in to speak to Hackett as well as Amazon execs. Hackett says she was never told the outcome of that inquiry, but notes that she hasn’t seen Price at any events involving her shows. (Price, through a spokesperson, declined comment.)

The news of Price's suspension also comes as Amazon is reviewing the two pricey dramas — Matthew Weiner's The Romanoffs and director David O. Russell's untitled drama — that the streamer has in the works from The Weinstein Co. in the wake of rape and sexual harassment allegations against former co-founder Harvey Weinstein. Per sources, the company is on the hook for $40 million for the Russell drama while the Weiner show is already halfway through production. Amazon has not received any financing from TWC for either show, say those same sources.

Amazon's relations with Weinstein again became part of the news narrative Thursday when actress Rose McGowan fired off a string of tweets to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The first: "@JeffBezos I told the head of your studio that HW raped me. Over & over I said it. He said it hadn't been proven. I said I was the proof." She went on to allege that a script she had in development with the company was later killed. The tweets received heavy attention in part because this was the first time that McGowan had identified her assailant by name.

As for Price, his tenure at Amazon dates back to 2004. During that time, he has overseen the launch of its digital video store and, later, its streaming service. Amazon's foray into scripted series has yielded mixed results, with a string of high-profile producers recently going public with their frustrations about working with the streamer. Among them: Goliath creator David E. Kelley, who described Price's entertainment division as "a bit of a gong show" in a scathing Wall Street Journal piece about the company's latest struggles in Hollywood.

Though Amazon's Jill Soloway comedy Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor, became a critical favorite, and Man in the High Castle and Goliath are said to have been among the streamer's most-viewed originals, none of them has broken out the way Stranger Things13 Reasons Why and Orange Is the New Black have for rival Netflix. And it was Hulu that became the first streamer to take home a best drama series Emmy for The Handmaid's Tale, while Amazon walked away from the awards show empty-handed.

In an acknowledgement of those challenges, the company is currently in the process of a strategy pivot. Looking ahead, Amazon will turn its focus to more global event series a la Game of Thrones. In preparation, the company has been busy axing a series of pricey dramas already on its service, including The Last Tycoon and Z: The Beginning of Everything, the latter of which was canceled after a surprise season two renewal.