4:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Jennifer Salke Restructures Amazon's Development Team: Albert Cheng to Co-Head TV
A month after landing the top job at Amazon Studios, Jennifer Salke has started to solidify her executive team.
Salke, the former NBC Entertainment president who replaced the ousted Roy Price at the retailer and streamer, has tapped Albert Cheng to serve in the newly created position of co-head of television. Chief operating officer Cheng had replaced Price on an interim basis and will now report directly to Salke. Cheng and his yet-to-be-determined co-head will be jointly responsible for leading the TV division. Cheng will continue to serve as COO of all of Amazon Studios while also working on day-to-day oversight of the business, creative and production units on the TV side.
Sources suggest the other co-head of television is likely to be someone hand-picked by Salke who has more experience working on the creative side. Salke is said to be meeting with a select group of potential hires over the next few months.
Additionally, the scripted development team has been reorganized and will now report to Cheng and his fellow co-head of television.
Sharon Tal Yguado, who had been serving as interim head of comedy and drama after initially being brought in by Price and Jeff Bezos to oversee genre programming, will now focus specifically on the latter. Yguado's formal title is head of genre as she serves as point on this one-hour category. Her purview includes event genre series in sci-fi, fantasy and supernatural.
Marc Resteghini, who in July added drama on top of his duties as head of current, has been promoted to head drama. The current department will now fall under the respective comedy and drama teams until a time in which it needs to be expanded. Resteghini will oversee all non-genre one-hour programming.
Nick Hall, who in July shifted from overseeing comedy to run drama, will now take on a new role as head of alternative, overseeing content including young adult, specialty series and supporting efforts to drive talent and new ventures to Amazon.
Georgia Brown will head U.K.-originated scripted television. That includes sourcing, developing and producing series out of the U.K., while also retaining her duties for EU Originals (for Germany, France, Italy and Spain). She reports to co-head of television for U.K.-originated scripted TV and EU originals head Brad Beale.
The other key departments within Amazon Studios will remain the same. Those include Ryan Andolina and Gina Kwon as co-heads of comedy; Heather Schuster as head of unscripted (a position she landed in October after Price's top lieutenant Conrad Riggs was pushed out); and Melissa Wolfe as head of kids programming. (Wolfe replaced Tara Sorensen, who left for Apple).
The shuffle is the first in what will be a series of moves to help solidify Amazon's executive ranks following a months-long search to replace Price, who stepped down from his post days after being placed on indefinite leave after The Hollywood Reporter published allegations of his vulgar propositioning of The Man in the High Castle executive producer Isa Hackett. His top lieutenant, Joe Lewis — who headed drama and comedy — was also pushed out following news that he faced conflict of interest allegations at Amazon. Riggs followed.
After seeing the head of the studio, drama and comedy topper and unscripted chief all shown the door, Amazon Studios saw its head of international Morgan Wandell and head of kids programming Sorensen jump ship for comparable jobs at Apple.
Cheng, for his part, has been serving as COO since arriving at Amazon in June 2015. Before that, was chief product officer, digital media, at the Disney/ABC Television Group. His months-long time as interim head of Amazon Studios has been the only creative position in his career. The Harvard Business School graduate has also served as senior vp business strategy and development at Disney and ESPN and been on the board of directors at Lifetime.
Yguado, meanwhile, has greenlighted multiple big swings in the genre space and was instrumental in closing the $250 million deal to land the rights to a Lord of the Rings TV franchise at Amazon Studios. The company, under a mandate from CEO Jeff Bezos, has been making an aggressive push for broader fare — a la Game of Thrones — while axing niche fare. To that end, Amazon recently canceled Mozart in the Jungle and One Mississippi, among others, and passed on multiple comedy pilots. Instead, it has snapped up Cortes, starring Javier Bardem; an animated comedy from the creator of Netflix's BoJack Horseman; genre play Consider Phlebas; Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's The Boys; and Ringworld, among others.
As for Resteghini, he first joined Amazon in 2014, serving as a senior development and programming exec in the drama department. He added current in July. Resteghini previously served as vice president at DiNovi Pictures, director of production for 20th Century Fox Film and CEO at Parkes + MacDonald Productions.
Hall previously served as senior vp comedy at HBO before moving to Amazon in June 2016. He took over Amazon's drama department in July. Before HBO, Hall was manager of comedy development at Warner Bros. Television.