11:40am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Mike Hopkins Exits Sony TV for Top Amazon Video Job
Mike Hopkins is returning to the digital space.
After a two-and-a-half-year tenure as chairman Sony Pictures Television, Hopkins is leaving the independent studio and taking a top job at Amazon, where he will oversee Prime Video and Amazon Studios. In his new post, he will report directly to Amazon chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos. Hopkins will begin his new role at Amazon on Feb. 24.
Hopkins' position at Sony TV will not be filled, but his duties will be absorbed by worldwide distribution president Keith LeGoy and Jeff Frost, president of U.S. production. The news was announced Monday during a quarterly meeting with Sony TV execs including Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra. (Read Vinciquerra's memo to staff, below.)
As senior vp Prime Video and Amazon Studios, Hopkins is assuming part of the role previously held by veteran Amazon executive Jeff Blackburn. The senior vp business and corporate development, a close advisor to Bezos, led the company’s entertainment and advertising businesses — including Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Studios and Amazon Music — before stepping away for a sabbatical in 2020.
Seattle-based Blackburn, who joined Amazon in 1998, is one of the company’s longest-tenured employees and was key to the creation of its entertainment business. “I’ve been pretty nonstop at Amazon for 21-plus years now — from the time we were only selling books,” he wrote in a July memo to staff announcing his break. Blackburn said he would take a year to “spend more time with my wife and family,” adding that “it’s never easy to find a good time for a break when always scaling so fast, but now feels like the right time for me and my family.”
Amazon Studios, in particular, has reached a period of stability following the 2017 ouster of former head Roy Price following sexual harassment allegations. Since then, the company has installed NBC veteran Jennifer Salke to lead the division, where she has shepherded the launches of shows like Jack Ryan and Homecoming while also overseeing the development of a high-profile Lord of the Rings adaptation.
Salke and Greg Hart, who oversees the Prime Video platforms as vp Amazon Video, both previously reported to Blackburn and will now report to Hopkins, who will bring deep knowledge of the business side of streaming to the operation.
For Hopkins, the move brings the exec back to the digital space after he previously served as Hulu CEO from 2013 to 2017 upon replacing founding CEO Jason Kilar. Hopkins had been a Hulu board member since 2011 through his former role at Fox.
Hopkins oversaw a period of significant growth for Hulu, championing its push to develop more premium scripted originals including The Handmaid’s Tale, which won the streamer five Primetime Emmys during its freshman season in 2017. During his tenure, Hulu’s subscriber base grew by more than 200 percent and expanded to offer a live streaming television bundle.
During Hopkins' time at Sony, he was charged with transforming the indie studio to a more nimble organization that was better staffed and structured for the streaming era. The studio has undergone rounds of restructuring that has included combining its networks operations with distribution and home entertainment into a new, leaner team, as well as refocusing Sony's networks portfolio. With Hopkins' departure, LeGoy will now oversee Funimation and Sony's networks operations, programming and strategy group. Frost, meanwhile, will now oversee first-run television, Embassy Row and Sony's game show development team (the latter of which is overseen by Mike Richards). Both LeGoy and Frost will now report not to Hopkins but directly to Vinciquerra, who will also oversee international production, Silvergate, GSN and Sony's India networks business as well as the syndicated hits Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.
Hopkins joined Sony in October 2017, helping to fill the void created by the June 2016 exit of former chairman Steve Mosko, who departed following a 24-year run with the studio.
Below is Vinciquerra's memo to staff announcing Hopkins' departure.
I’m writing to make you aware that Mike Hopkins will be leaving Sony Pictures later this month to take on an exciting new challenge overseeing Amazon’s video entertainment businesses — including Prime Video and Amazon Studios, reporting directly to Amazon Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos. Obviously, this move represents a significant change for our senior leadership team and the studio, but we support Mike’s decision and look forward to the many opportunities to stay connected working together in the future.
I want to thank Mike for his outstanding leadership since arriving at the studio in late 2017. From day one he was charged with rethinking the way we run our television businesses. Under his watch, SPT has been transformed into a stronger and more nimble organization, able to pivot and change course quickly in today’s rapidly evolving entertainment landscape. As part of our “Reimagine” efforts, SPT has undergone essential structural change and realignment — such as combining our networks operations with distribution/home entertainment into a new territory management model and refocusing our network portfolio. Additionally, SPT has made several significant deals on the M&A front and forged new relationships with top creators and talent. These were not small tasks and would not have been possible without the outstanding work of SPT’s excellent divisional leadership and their teams, who will continue to drive our business forward.
As a result of these efforts, our television business will thrive and grow in key priority areas, such as U.S. and international production, distribution, our already outstanding game show businesses, kids programming, our newly combined anime groups and our strong regional networks businesses — especially in India and Latin America.
Having accomplished the bulk of what we set out to do over the last couple years, and with much of the heavy lifting behind us, we will be taking the opportunity of Mike’s departure to realign our leadership structure at SPT.
- Keith LeGoy, our President of Worldwide Distribution, will now oversee Funimation and our Networks Operations, Programming and Strategy group.
- Jeff Frost, our President of U.S. Production will now oversee First Run Television, Embassy Row and our new game show development team run by Mike Richards.
Keith and Jeff will now report directly to me. As will our International Production business, Silvergate, GSN, our India networks business, and Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!
Please join me in thanking Mike for his numerous contributions and wishing him continued success. If you have any questions, please reach out to me or your respective executive leaders or P&O partners.