The news, which came via a memo posted the company’s intranet whose contents were first reported by GeekWire, was not unexpected. The executive, who has been a close advisor of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, announced his plan for a one-year sabbatical in the summer of 2019. The leave began in early 2020.
As SVP Business and Corporate Development, Blackburn steered Prime Video, Amazon Studios (which is now run by Jennifer Salke), and the company’s music, advertising and third-party businesses. In early 2020, former Hulu, Sony and Fox exec Mike Hopkins moved to Amazon in a senior role handling much of what was on Blackburn’s plate and reporting directly to Bezos.
In his memo to colleagues, Blackburn wrote, “I’m not retiring and will have news on what’s next for me soon.” Bezos responded by noting that Blackburn “has kept me in the loop on his next chapter, and I can assure you it’s a very exciting one!” He added, “I predict that Jeff will be every bit as amazing in his new role as he’s been in all his roles at Amazon. Easy prediction. Big congrats to you, Jeff.”
Speculation about who would succeed Bezos as CEO had touched on Blackburn and other senior executives like longtime retail chief Jeff Wilke, who ended up announcing his plan to depart the company next month. Another longtime Bezos lieutenant did get beamed up for the top role: Amazon Web Services head Andy Jassy will take the reins from Bezos this summer, with the founder remaining executive chairman.
While Blackburn’s domain grew to include a number of operations, a degree of uncertainty about the company’s plans in streaming still hovers over the company. It is undoubtedly a colossal force in the entertainment world. Its streaming device system Fire TV serving more than 50 million homes and Prime Video making aggressive moves in acquiring and releasing high-profile projects. Already a partner with the NFL, Amazon is seen as a potential candidate to make a play for exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football in the league’s ongoing negotiations of long-term licenses. Talks are expected to yield a deal in the next few weeks.