This marks the end of a chapter for Amazon and swift fall from grace for Price, who’d come up with the business plan for an Amazon entertainment division, launched the unit and ran it from Day 1.
The resignation was fully expected. As we reported last week, it was considered virtually impossible for Price to be accepted as an Amazon chief going forward following the details of sexual harassment allegations against him made public last Thursday.
“He would be completely ostracized,” one person said on Friday, 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 ouster 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 as well as statements by actress Rose McGowan that he’d known about her rape accusations against Harvey Weinstein, Price 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, as Amazon officially moves to finding a replacement for Price, the new head of Amazon Studios likely would be a woman, with Powell again speculated about.
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 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.
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 and 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 E. 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.
Price, a close friend of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein, also had forged an alliance with the now-embattled Weinstein Co., orchestrating very expensive deals for $70 million Matthew Weiner series The Romanoffs and $160 million two-season pickup of a David O. Russell drama starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore. Following Price’s suspension, Amazon on Friday cut ties with TWC, scrapping the Russell series after spending tens of millions of dollars and taking over The Romanoffs.
Price’s official exit raises a serious question about the future his top lieutenant Joe Lewis, credited with early Amazon Studios awards standouts like Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle. He, along with Price, also has been scrutinized recently over potential conflict-of-interest issues. (Lewis’ girlfriend, Yara Martinez, was cast in Amazon’s The Tick.) Also considered on shaky ground is Amazon’s head of alternative Conrad Riggs.
In addition to the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Transparent and Globe-winning Mozart in the Jungle, other critically/commercially successful series developed and launched under Price include dramas Bosch and The Man in the High Castle.
Even before Price’s exit, Amazon Studios already had been in transition.
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 a reported $4 billion a year with no watercoolor title to show for it and expensive misfires like Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes.