Details have emerged about the cuts, which were described by one source close to the company as a “bloodbath”. Execs let go include Nancy Cotton, Arturo Interian, Marcy Kaplan, Chris Castallo and Uri Fleming across different divisions.
Most of the exits are a result of the integration of Lindsay Sloane’s MGM Scripted Television team alongside MGM+ and MGM Unscripted under Chris Brearton, VP, Corporate Strategy, Prime Video and Studios. Sloane and Barry Poznick’s teams will continue to work closely with the studios teams in developing for Prime Video and also will continue to produce for outside networks and streamers.
Also impacted by layoffs in a consolidation move are multiple Amazon MGM Studios teams, including Studio Marketing, Business Operations (Production, Post & Business Affairs) and Amazon MGM Studios Distribution teams, as well as the company’s Local Originals business.
Amazon Studios Head Jennifer Salke and Brearton just addressed the organizational changes and the layoffs in internal memos, also revealing a consolidation of the Amazon Studios and MGM theatrical distribution units (You can read them at the bottom of the story.)
The goal for the team led by Sloane, who took up the role of EVP, MGM Scripted TV in November 2022, is that the division will be able to produce more premium series in the vein of Netflix’s Wednesday, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and FX’s Fargo, for third party broadcasters as well as series for MGM+.
Michael Wright will continue as head of MGM+ and will report to Brearton as a part of the newly created group, which will also include MGM Alternative Television under Barry Poznick.
However, Nancy Cotton is EVP, Head of Scripted Programming for MGM+, has been affected. She joined the company in 2018 when MGM+ was known as Epix and was boss Michael Wright’s first major executive hire. She has been responsible for series such as Godfather of Harlem, Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia, Ed Burns’ Bridge and Tunnel and Adrien Brody-fronted Chapelwaite.
Arturo Interian, EVP, Current Scripted Programming, who has been with the company since 2019, Marcy Kaplan, Head of Production for MGM+, who joined in October 2022, and Rob Hochberg, VP of Development & Production, Scripted TV at MGM, who has been there 13 years are also understood to be affected.
Other impacted scripted execs are said to include Amy Suh, Development Executive, Genre Series, Amazon Studios, Vanessa Martinez – Creative Executive, First Look & Overall Deals, and Sonya Strich – Development Executive, Genre Series at Amazon Studios.
Chris Castallo, who has been with the company since 2018, is also leaving. He joined the company as Head of Unscripted Television for Amazon Studios but last year, we revealed that he was moving to the streamer’s scripted division.
Elsewhere, on the unscripted side, we gather most of Amazon Studios’ U.S. unscripted programming team is safe, although Uri Fleming, Head of Business Affairs, Unscripted is affected. Fleming has been with the company for seven years.
Internationally, the cuts seem to have affected Amazon Studios’ Canadian team with a number of executives let go.
Deadline understands that many of the employees affected turned up or logged on to work this morning to an email informing them of the layoffs and that there is an “HR video call” later this morning that will reveal severance packages.
Here is Salke’s email to staff:
I am really proud of how much we have grown and accomplished over the past year. We’ve brought our audiences world class, compelling series and movies across the globe. However, like any organization, we continue to look deeply at our business, self-reflect on our strategies, and be insightful about our investments across Amazon MGM Studios, Prime Video and Freevee. While we will continue to make significant content investments and deliver a robust slate, it’s also important that we continue to focus on becoming more operationally efficient and coordinated in driving success across our business. As Mike shared this morning, we have made difficult decisions to eliminate some roles across Amazon MGM Studios. With that in mind, I wanted to share some strategic changes we are making as a business.
Firstly, we have consolidated the Amazon Studios and MGM theatrical distribution teams. Having one team will allow us to look across our content and decide the best release strategy for each title. This team will remain under Kevin Wilson’s leadership and operate as the Amazon MGM Studios Theatrical Distribution team.
Chris Brearton will be integrating Lindsay Sloane’s MGM Scripted Television team alongside MGM+ and MGM Unscripted with a mission to continue to make best in class content. Lindsay Sloane and Barry Poznick’s teams will continue to work closely with the studios teams in developing for Prime Video and also will continue to produce for outside networks and streamers. Chris and I will share more detail very shortly.
In the effort to consolidate and find more efficiencies, we have made other organizational changes which have lead to some loss of roles across multiple Amazon MGM Studios teams, including Studio Marketing, Business Operations (Production, Post & Business Affairs) and Amazon MGM Studios Distribution teams.
Finally, we have taken a deep look at our Local Originals business and are focusing our resources in the places where we believe they can have the largest impact for customers.
All impacted employees in the Americas have been notified this morning (PST), and most other regions will be notified on these headcount reductions and changes in strategy by the end of the week. We are following local processes, which may include time for consultation with employee representative bodies, possibly resulting in longer timelines to communicate in some countries. I know this news is difficult and impacts you all in different ways. We encourage you to reach out to My HR with questions and remember that our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available 24/7 for free and confidential help.
Change is always hard and decisions to lose valued employees are not ones we take lightly. As shared this morning, we remain very optimistic about the long-term future of Amazon MGM Studios and continue to make significant investments towards making Prime the most loved entertainment hub for customers globally. For those teams who have been impacted by these strategic changes and headcount reductions, I want to thank you all for the hard work and results you have driven for our business.
I know this is not an easy time for any of you and encourage you to reach out to your leaders or our HRBP teams if you have any questions — we are all here to support you. My leadership team and I will be setting an All Hands at the end of Q1 to discuss the go forward priorities for the Studio in more detail, as we move forward into 2024 and beyond.
Here is the joint email from Brearton and Salke:
In addition to the high-quality and broadly appealing movies and series produced by Amazon MGM Studios for customers on Prime Video, we produce critically acclaimed and culture-defining series for MGM+ and third party platforms. MGM+ has showcased series such as Godfather of Harlem, From, Billy the Kid and the upcoming Hotel Cocaine. Our productions for third partners include Emmy award nominated series such as Wednesday, The Handmaid’s Tale and Fargo.
In order bring together our creative resources in this area, today we will combine the MGM Scripted Television team with the MGM+ Productions team to form a unified television creative group. This group will be led by Lindsay Sloane and will focus on continuing to produce premium scripted series for third party partners, as well as new series for the thriving MGM+ platform. Michael Wright will continue as the Head of MGM+ and will be responsible for all programming and greenlight decisions for the MGM + platform. Lindsay and Michael will report to Chris Brearton, VP Corporate Strategy, Prime Video & Studios, as a part of the newly created group, which will also include MGM Alternative Television under the continued leadership of Barry Poznick. These teams will also work closely with Vernon Sanders at Amazon MGM Studios on potential series for distribution on Prime Video.
As a result of these changes, there will be some roles eliminated within the MGM team. I’m writing to let you know that all impacted employees have been notified this morning (PST). We recognize this news is difficult. Please know that we do not take these decisions lightly. We encourage you to reach out to My HR with questions and remember that our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available 24/7 for free and confidential help.
Chris & Jen