As Amazon brass are huddled up in Seattle, pondering the fate of suspended Amazon Studios chief Roy Price, Hollywood is still absorbing the news, which came as an aftershock following the massive Harvey Weinstein earthquake that had shaken Tinseltown to its core.
While one person pointed to Price’s entrepreneurial accomplishments — the fact that he came up with a business plan for an Amazon entertainment division and implemented it, something that is valued by top business executives to the north — most agree that in Hollywood, it would be virtually impossible for Price to be accepted as an Amazon chief going forward.
“He would be completely ostracized,” one person said, noting that it would be hard for the studio to attract female showrunners and actors in the current post-Harvey Weinstein environment where there is very little tolerance for sexual harassment.
While the tipping point for Price’s leave of absence, imposed on him yesterday, was the release of salacious details about how he propositioned The Man In The High Castle executive producer Isa Hackett Dick during Comic-Con 2015 in San Diego, he already had been under heavy scrutiny.
Rumors were flying in the spring, when information about the incident started to surface, that Price could be leaving, with Paramount TV president Amy Powell as a name tipped as a potential replacement. Following the recent sexual harassment allegation against Price, there is a consensus that a potential replacement for him would likely be a woman.
Besides Powell, other names of seasoned high-level female TV executives I’ve heard as suitable candidates include former HBO Entertainment president Sue Naegle, A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, and Fox chairman Dana Walden. Also mentioned as possibilities are ABC’s Channing Dungey, NBC’s Jennifer Salke, and Warner Bros.’ Susan Rovner, whose name has come up for a number of jobs recently but who is believed to be locked into a long-term contract. (Not all of the other executives mentioned are believed to be available and/or interested either.) The only potential internal candidate is head of event series Sharon Tal Yguado who only recently joined the streaming service.
While these are considered logical possibilities, sources caution that the process is still in nascent stages and Price has not been officially released from the company.
One quirky potential obstacle in the recruitment of a new top entertainment executive could be Amazon’s thriftiness that not many top-level Hollywood executives are accustomed to. Amazon execs fly mostly coach, stay at reasonably priced hotels, and company employees don’t even get free Amazon Prime membership.
Since the rumors about a possible executive shakeup at Amazon Studios first surfaced in May, there had been an increasing number of reports about a chaotic environment at the studio, potential conflict of interest situations and clashes with talent, with Goliath co-creator David K. Kelley, one of a number of showrunners who have exited their Amazon series, recently calling Amazon’s entertainment division “a bit of a gong show” in a WSJ article.
Then just before the Primetime Emmy Awards, where Amazon was left empty-handed while SVOD rivals Hulu and Netflix picked up trophies, Amazon Studios got new directives from Seattle to overhaul its programming strategy, pulling away from niche shows to focus on big broad (largely genre) hits of the size of HBO’s Game Of Thrones. That comes after the streaming service has spent reported $4 billion a year with no watercolor title to show for it and expensive misfires like Woody Allen’s Crisis In Six Scenes.
Whether winter will be coming to Amazon soon in the form of a GOT-caliber hit is still up in the air, but one thing is certain — change is coming.