Amazon Studios’ Vernon Sanders Sets New Original Content Structure – Deadline


EXCLUSIVE: The new structure of Amazon Studios’ US/Global content operations under Head of Television Vernon Sanders is coming into focus. It involves the creation of three creative development teams shepherding programming across SVOD, AVOD and FAST channels. They will be led by Laura Lancaster, Nick Pepper and Lauren Anderson who all are adding new responsibilities while reporting to Sanders, as well as the split of developing scripted content for Prime Video into projects produced solely by Amazon Studios and those coming from outside studios as co-productions.

Lancaster, most recently Head Of Series, will take on an expanded role as Head of US SVOD TV Development and Series – Co-Productions. She will oversee all co-production original content in partnership with outside studios and will continue to lead the series team that oversees the streamer’s current shows through their life cycle.

Pepper, most recently head of Creative Content, will take on new responsibilities as Head of US SVOD TV Development and Series – Wholly Owned, overseeing all Amazon Studios internal development of whole owned original SVOD TV content. His team also will continue to focus on securing big, global IP. 

Anderson, Head of AVOD Programming and Studios Unscripted across US Prime Video and Amazon Freevee, will add an oversight of areas Amazon Studios has been looking to ramp up, YA, Faith, and Family. She and her team will continue to manage originals development and content acquisition for Freevee as well as lead studios-based 1P and exclusive programming for Amazon’s FAST/Linear business. She also oversees the development of all unscripted content for Amazon Studios for Prime Video, Freevee, and FAST/Linear.

Lancaster’s team includes Head of Genre Development Jon Wax, Kara Smith, most recently Amazon Studios’ Head of Drama, and Andy Bourne. Pepper’s direct reports include Head of Comedy Ryan Andolina, Matt King and Melissa Wolfe, previously Head Of Animation and Family. Anderson’s team is led by Traci Blackwell, and Freevee veteran Christel Miller. These executives’ responsibilities also are changing.

The restructuring represents Sanders’ putting his stamp as solo Head of TV, a position he took on last October when Albert Cheng became a full-time COO. It comes on the heels of Marc Resteghini stepping down as US/Global Head of Development, segueing into a producing deal with Amazon Studios. As Deadline reported at the time, Pepper and Lancaster were expected to divvy up Resteghini’s responsibilities.

Vernon laid out the new structure in a company email, a copy of which was obtained by Deadline. (You can read it at the bottom of the story.)

As Lancaster, Pepper and Anderson are joined by senior executives on their teams, here are details about these executives’ new responsibilities. (The trio also are keeping team members in the areas they continue to oversee.)

  • US SVOD TV Development – Co-Productions (led by Lancaster)

Jon Wax and former Fox 21 TV Studios SVP Development Andy Bourne, who joined Amazon in early 2022, will co-lead a team of development executives as Head of Development – Co-Productions. 

Kara Smith will assume the role of Head of Limited Series with a team focused on the development of talent driven, high-concept shows. The team will develop both wholly owned properties as well as working with co-production partners. 

  •  US SVOD TV Development and Series – Wholly Owned (led by Pepper)

Ryan Andolina will expand his role to become Head of Comedy and Drama Development, overseeing development of all wholly owned comedy and drama series.

Matt King, who followed Pepper from Legendary TV where he was EVP, will add genre development to his duties to become Head of Tentpole, Genre and Universe Development of wholly owned content.

Melissa Wolfe, now Head of Animation Development, will shepherd the development of all animated series, including animated co-productions.

  • Originals For Freevee, YA, Family, Faith, Unscripted, FAST/Linear Programming (led by Anderson.

Former BET Head of Scripted Programming Traci Blackwell, who started at Amazon a few months ago, will be joining the team with a focus on expanding Prime Video and Amazon Freevee’s YA, Faith-based, and culturally-diverse content offerings.

Christel Miller, who has been with Freevee since the launch of its Originals program, will formally lead AVOD Scripted development.

Pepper and Lancaster were named to their most recent roles in early 2021 when they joined Amazon as part of a restructuring of the scripted team. Anderson assumed her most recent post in August as part of a restructuring where Ryan Pirozzi was named head of Freevee, overseeing the business side of the streaming service, while Anderson was given oversight for programming for Freevee and Prime Video’s ad-supported FAST linear channels. She added oversight of unscripted fare for both Prime Video, Freevee and FAST soon thereafter.

Here is Sanders’ memo:

Fellow Colleagues,

We are on the precipice of a truly incredible moment for Amazon Studios.  It has been a year filled with the tremendous success of our critically acclaimed and crowd-pleasing new and returning series, including (to name a few) action-packed dramas The Terminal List, Bosch: Legacy, and Reacher; YA adaptations The Summer I Turned Pretty and High School; culturally-relevant comedies Sprung and Harlem; Unscripted Emmy winners Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls and Judy Justice; genre tentpole The Boys and epic fantasy event series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. With this momentum, we are poised to deliver even greater value for our customers – Prime and non-Prime. 

As we continue to grow and scale, we must evolve to consistently deliver the entertaining content our broad customer base craves. I am pleased to share with you a new US/Global TV Creative Development organizational structure that is designed to generate multiple, specialized pipelines of original content for our SVOD, AVOD and FAST customers. As part of this new approach, we will now have multiple, distinct, creative development teams each managed by highly talented executives who will join me in leading a world class Global TV organization for Amazon Studios.

Laura Lancaster, who has been leading our Series department for Prime Video, will take on an expanded role to oversee all co-production driven original content, as well as leading our Series team. In shepherding the recent work on some of our biggest hits, including The Boys, Jack Ryan, and Wheel of Time, Laura’s team has built strong mechanisms with our external co-production partners. In her new role as Head of US SVOD TV Development and Series – Co-Productions, Laura and her team will be integral as we continue to prioritize producing the very best content with outside studios.  In addition to Laura’s existing team, her new direct reports will include the following:

Jon Wax and Andy Bourne will co-lead a team of development executives to cultivate scripted series, both as Head of Development – Co-Productions.  Jon and Andy’s combined experience will help us continue to raise the creative bar in strategic partnership with external studios in building out our impressive slate. 

Kara Smith will assume the role of Head of Limited Series with a team focused on the development of talent driven, high-concept shows that entice our Prime Video audience. The team will develop both wholly owned properties as well as working with co-production partners to foster globally appealing content designed for a limited run. 

Nick Pepper, who has been leading our Studio Creative Content division, will take on new responsibilities to oversee all internal development, cultivating a robust pipeline of wholly owned original SVOD TV content. In his new role as Head of US SVOD TV Development and Series – Wholly Owned, Nick will leverage much of the progress he has made in the last 18 months. Along with developing incredible new series, Nick’s team will continue to focus on securing big, global IP, establishing the creative framework to build compelling, interconnected universes and new synergistic content with our Amazon Global Media & Entertainment (GME) partners, and fostering relationships with our best-in-class creators.  In addition to Nick’s existing team:

Ryan Andolina, now reporting to Nick, will expand his role to become Head of Comedy and Drama Development.  In this position, Ryan will work closely with our creative partners to develop all wholly owned comedy and drama series.

Matt King will add genre development to his duties to become Head of Tentpole, Genre and Universe Development of wholly owned content.

Melissa Wolfe will also report to Nick as Head of Animation Development.  Under her leadership, this team will be responsible for the development of all animated series, including animated co-productions.

Lauren Anderson, Head of AVOD Programming and Studios Unscripted across US Prime Video and Amazon Freevee, will add an additional focus on dynamic yet underserved content categories including YA, Faith, and Family. Lauren and her team will continue to manage Originals development and content acquisition for Freevee, where we have seen tremendous growth, as well as lead Studios-based 1P and Exclusive programming for our growing FAST/Linear business. Lauren’s team is also responsible for overseeing the development of all unscripted content on behalf of Amazon Studios for Prime Video, Freevee, and FAST/Linear, including upcoming family-friendly titles Dr. Seuss Baking Challenge and Play-doh Squished.  With this structure, we look forward to future Prime Video/Freevee partnerships within both the scripted and unscripted spaces, including opportunistic launches of AVOD titles on Prime Video and the continued windowing of SVOD titles on Freevee. In addition to the previously announced Unscripted alignment:

Traci Blackwell will be joining the team with a focus on expanding Prime Video and Amazon Freevee’s YA, Faith-based, and culturally-diverse content offerings. Joining us from BET Networks where she led scripted development, and a former tenured CW executive, Traci and the team joining her are uniquely positioned to deepen our selection in these disparate yet critical spaces.

Christel Miller, a seasoned broadcast executive who has been with Freevee since the launch of its Originals program, will formally lead AVOD Scripted development. In addition to previously launched titles windowed across Prime Video and Freevee, Christel’s team is creatively responsible for upcoming series Primo and On Call as well as partnered closely on 1RLs (licensed by US CAM Head Tracy Piippo and his team) including but not limited to Alex Rider, American Rust, Leverage: Redemption, Troppo and Amazon Studios’ first holiday film Hotel for the Holidays.

We are extremely fortunate to have this group of dynamic leaders guide Amazon Studios towards achieving our ambitious goals.  While we believe this is the structure to best serve our future, we also know this transition will take time to ensure we have the best experience for and relationships with our creative partners.

As always, I am so grateful for all of your dedication, hard work, and ability to focus amidst an ever-changing environment. You are at the heart of what makes Amazon Studios unique and we could not do this without each and every one of you. 

Fellow Colleagues,

We are on the precipice of a truly incredible time for Amazon Studios. It has been a year filled with the tremendous success of our critically acclaimed and crowd-pleasing new and returning series, including (to name a few) action-packed dramas The Terminal List, Bosch: Legacy, and Reacher; YA adaptations The Summer I Turned Pretty and High School; culturally-relevant comedies Sprung and Harlem; Unscripted Emmy winners Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls and Judy Justice; genre tentpole The Boys; and the epic fantasy event series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. With this momentum, we are poised to deliver even greater value for our customers – Prime and non-Prime.

As we continue to grow and scale, we must evolve to consistently deliver the entertaining content our broad customer base craves. I am pleased to share with you a new US/Global TV Creative Development organizational structure that is designed to generate multiple, specialized pipelines of original content for our SVOD, AVOD, and FAST customers. As part of this new approach, we will now have distinct creative development teams, each managed by highly talented executives who will join me in leading a world class Global TV organization for Amazon Studios.

Laura Lancaster, who has been leading our Series department for Prime Video, will take on an expanded role, overseeing all co-production-driven original content as well as leading our Series team. In shepherding the recent work on some of our biggest hits, including The Boys, Jack Ryan, and Wheel of Time, Laura’s team has built strong mechanisms with our external co-production partners. In her new role as Head of US SVOD TV Development and Series – Co-Productions, Laura and her team will be integral as we continue to prioritize producing the very best content with outside studios. In addition to Laura’s existing team, her new direct reports will include the following:

Jon Wax and Andy Bourne will co-lead a team of development executives to cultivate scripted series, both as Head of Development – Co-Productions. Jon and Andy’s combined experience will help us continue to raise the creative bar in strategic partnership with external studios in building out our impressive slate.

Kara Smith will assume the role of Head of Limited Series, with a team focused on the development of talent-driven, high-concept shows that entice our Prime Video audience. The team will develop both wholly owned properties as well as work with co-production partners to foster globally appealing content designed for a limited run.

Nick Pepper, who has been leading our Studio Creative Content division, will take on new responsibilities to oversee all internal development, cultivating a robust pipeline of wholly owned original SVOD TV content. In his new role as Head of US SVOD TV Development and Series – Wholly Owned, Nick will leverage the progress he and his team have made in the last 18 months. Nick’s team will continue to focus on securing big, global IP, establishing the creative framework to build compelling, interconnected universes and franchises, and adapt new synergistic content in partnership with our Amazon Global Media & Entertainment (GME) partners. With an ever-present focus on being the best home for talent, the First Look & Overall Deals team remains focused on developing incredible new series for Prime Video. In addition to Nick’s existing team:

Ryan Andolina, now reporting to Nick, will expand his role to become Head of Comedy and Drama Development. In this position, Ryan will work closely with our creative partners to develop all wholly owned comedy and drama series.

Matt King will add genre development to his duties to become Head of Tentpole, Genre and Universe Development of wholly owned content.

Melissa Wolfe will also report to Nick as Head of Animation Development. Under her leadership, this team will be responsible for the development of all animated series, including animated co-productions.

Lauren Anderson, Head of AVOD Programming and Studios Unscripted across US Prime Video and Amazon Freevee, will add an additional focus on dynamic yet underserved content categories including YA, Faith, and Family. Lauren and her team will continue to manage Originals development and content acquisition for Freevee, where we have seen tremendous growth, as well as lead Studios-based 1P and Exclusive programming for our growing FAST/Linear business. Lauren’s team is also responsible for overseeing the development of all unscripted content on behalf of Amazon Studios for Prime Video, Freevee, and FAST/Linear, including upcoming family-friendly titles Dr. Seuss Baking Challenge and Play-doh Squished. With this structure, we look forward to future Prime Video/Freevee partnerships within both the scripted and unscripted spaces, including opportunistic launches of AVOD titles on Prime Video and the continued windowing of SVOD titles on Freevee. In addition to the previously announced Unscripted alignment:

Traci Blackwell will be joining the team with a focus on expanding Prime Video and Amazon Freevee’s YA, Faith-based, and culturally diverse content offerings. Joining us from BET Networks where she led scripted development, and a former tenured CW executive, Traci and the team joining her are uniquely positioned to deepen our selection in these disparate yet critical spaces.

Christel Miller, a seasoned broadcast executive who has been with Freevee since the launch of its Originals program, will formally lead AVOD Scripted development. In addition to previously launched titles windowed across Prime Video and Freevee, Christel’s team is creatively responsible for upcoming series Primo and On Call as well as partnered closely on 1RLs (licensed by US CAM Head Tracy Piippo and his team) including but not limited to Alex Rider, American Rust, Leverage: Redemption, Troppo, and Amazon Studios’ first holiday film, Hotel for the Holidays.

We are extremely fortunate to have this group of dynamic leaders guide Amazon Studios towards achieving our ambitious goals. While we believe this is the structure to best serve our future, we also know this transition will take time to ensure we have the best experience for and relationships with our creative partners.

As always, I am so grateful for all of your dedication, hard work, and ability to focus amidst an ever-changing environment. You are at the heart of what makes Amazon Studios unique and we could not do this without each and every one of you.




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