12:30pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Amazon's Morgan Wandell Jumps Ship for Apple
Amazon Studios is losing another key executive.
Following a months-long negotiation, Morgan Wandell is exiting the retail giant and streamer and heading to Apple as part of the company's scripted push.
Wandell will serve as head of international and creative development, worldwide video, for Apple. The role is similar to his position at Amazon, where he served as head of international productions. The well-respected Wandell will report to Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, chief content officers and heads of worldwide video.
Wandell first joined Amazon in October 2013, arriving from ABC Studios where he headed drama for the Disney-owned studio. Wandell initially served as head of drama development for Amazon, reporting to Roy Price. In October 2016, Wandell shifted from head of drama to international, with comedy exec Joe Lewis also absorbing drama.
During his time at Amazon, Wandell helped develop series including Man in the High Castle, Jack Ryan and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, among others. Wandell most recently worked with Van Amburg and Erlicht on Amazon's Sneaky Pete. The executive has strong ties to the creative community and previously ran Greg Berlanti's production company when it was based at ABC Studios.
Wandell joins an Apple team that also includes former WGN America president Matt Cherniss, who serves as chief creative/head of U.S. programming and also reports to Erlicht and Van Amburg. The duo, who exited their roles as co-presidents at independent studio Sony Pictures Television, will split duties between domestic and international. Van Amburg and Erlicht were the first hires at Apple as part of the tech giant's move into original video. The duo recently started at Apple as co-heads of video programming, reporting to senior vp internet software and services Eddy Cue.
To date, Apple has positioned its original series as part of an effort to turn Apple Music into a cultural destination for music, documentaries and shows. The service, which has 27 million subscribers, remains much smaller than Swedish competitor Spotify with its 50 million paid members.
Hollywood has been anticipating Apple's entree into original programming for years. Apple, sources say, is looking to spend in the $1 billion neighborhood on originals in its first year. The company, which recently abandoned plans for an Elvis Presley miniseries produced by The Weinstein Co., is near a deal for scripted anthology Amazing Stories — produced by Steven Spielberg — as its first offering. How or when this series will launch is still unclear, just as it’s not yet clear whether this will be the first project released or will come as part of a first batch of series from Apple.
As for Amazon, Price resigned from his post as head of originals this week following sexual harassment allegations from one of the company's top producers. Other top executives, sources say, are also under pressure as Amazon is in the midst of a programming pivot as it looks to shift from niche programming to find a global hit a la Game of Thrones. Amazon recently tapped former Fox International Channels exec Sharon Tal Yguado as part of its larger push for genre fare.