Inside the Fall of Amazon Studios’ Roy Price

Days after THR published producer Isa Hackett’s sexual harassment claims, the head of the streaming giant steps down. Now new details are emerging of “awkward and uncomfortable” sex talk, a close relationship with Harvey Weinstein and misfires that may lead to more changes.

Is Amazon Studios in the process of emptying its shopping cart?

The exit of programming chief Roy Price on Oct. 17 after a harassment claim was made public has prompted observers to question if the retail giant will clean house and reboot its streaming video strategy. Price was put on indefinite leave Oct. 12, hours after The Hollywood Reporter published allegations of his vulgar propositioning of The Man in the High Castle executive producer Isa Hackett. Five days later, Amazon announced Price is stepping down. Now the focus is on whether other executives will survive amid a push to change course both creatively and culturally.

Amazon Studios COO Albert Cheng, a former Disney/ABC digital exec, is taking over on an interim basis, and the hunt is on for a new — and, according to sources, preferably female — content head. Amazon approached Paramount Television president Amy Powell over the summer but Powell, sources say, is no longer a contender. Other potential candidates include Amazon’s head of event series Sharon Tal Yguado, who helped turn The Walking Dead into a global phenomenon when she was at Fox International.

In the aftermath of Price’s exit and revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged harassment and assault, questions for the studio are coming into focus: Did Amazon tolerate behavior that men and women who worked there found inappropriate? And did the company permit Price to set what some saw as an anti-women tone in its programming choices? Amazon and Price declined to comment via spokespersons.

Price, 51, joined Amazon in 2004 and oversaw the company’s launch of its digital video store and, later, its Prime Video streaming service. While the company has released a few film successes, including this summer’s The Big Sick and double Oscar winner Manchester by the Sea, Amazon’s scripted TV series have yet to deliver a mainstream watercooler hit similar to Netflix’s Stranger Things or 13 Reasons Why, despite a content budget of about $4.5 billion this year.

In September, it was Hulu that became the first streamer to take home the best drama series Emmy for The Handmaid’s Tale. The lack of buzz has caused Amazon to recently cancel a number of high-profile shows, including Billy Ray’s The Last Tycoon and Zelda Fitzgerald drama Z: The Beginning of Everything. The thinking is that Price was programming for “Silver Lake,” referring to Los Angeles’ hipster neighborhood, rather than pursuing a broad Game of Thrones-style hit.

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SOURCE: Kim Masters, Lesley Goldberg 
The Hollywood Reporter