Amazon Studios: State of Slate 🎬
Inside the org chart (and brand identity) about to be upended
Earlier installments of The Ankler’s State of Slate series covered Apple, Netflix, Sony, Paramount, WB and Universal and are for paid subscribers only.
It has been a slow, steady ascent for Amazon Studios (born 2010) and its streaming service, Prime Video, which never has quite escaped the shadow of its streaming rival, Netflix, nor delivered the same initial star power of Apple TV+ (whose subscribers remain much smaller). Instead, like Hulu, it has painstakingly built its reputation as a streamer worth keeping, one project at a time, with a well-rounded film and television slate that may not be nearly as flashy as others, but, like its parent company, delivers the goods on a consistent basis.
A show like cop procedural Bosch (which moved to Freevee) isn’t as sexy as, say, House of Cards, but it provided a steady anchor for Amazon and helped the streamer identify a core part of its audience, which is why some of its biggest hits often feel like Dad TV (or CBS on steroids). And yet it balances that kind of populist, commercial content with auteur-driven fare such as Barry Jenkins’ Underground Railroad or Steve McQueen’s feature anthology Small Axe.
And now, with its biggest bet ever in the Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Amazon has had a taste of tentpoles (and not just finished ones made by another studio). That’s why, even when the studio had Dwayne Johnson aboard for the recently-announced Red One, which Amazon hopes will spark a franchise, it went out and added Chris Evans. If you’re going big, you go all-in.
I suspect that’s why Amazon is taking time sorting its executive ranks, which aren’t so much in disarray but in the calm before the storm (not to mention the subject of myriad guessing games around town). To recap: Amazon spent $8.5 billion buying MGM, and then its seasoned leaders, Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, shuffled over to Warner Bros. Discovery. Now, Amazon is going to do everything it can to get its money’s worth, something that will require an experienced film leader in its hierarchy who knows how to leverage a library into fresh IP.
Boss Jennifer Salke is overseeing a still nascent movie business after a few years in the top job, and the big question around town is: do MGM and Amazon Studios become one, or remain separate? And who would be the film honcho to oversee one if not both? (Currently, MGM reports into Mike Hopkins, Senior Vice President of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.) It would make sense for Amazon — masters of supply chain — to consider filling the theatrical void left by the major studios, especially as older, more discerning audiences return to theaters (see: mid-budget Ticket to Paradise). I also suspect that Amazon — which birthed Manchester by the Sea — will continue to lure rising filmmakers as they have with Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), while also leaning harder into a few calculated big swings.
In today’s deep dive, we’ll look at
Amazon’s org chart
Every first-look and overall deal
What’s coming the rest of 2022 and into 2023
Notes on football
Let’s start with the studio’s org chart: