Meet the 18 key execs who are leading Amazon's ambitions to take on heavyweights like Netflix and Hulu in media

Meet the 18 key execs who are leading Amazon's ambitions to take on heavyweights like Netflix and Hulu in media
  • Amazon is benefiting from e-commerce growing and people engaging with more streamed video and music at home during the pandemic.
  • While e-commerce makes up most of Amazon's revenue, Prime Video, Amazon Music, Twitch, and advertising are becoming bigger areas of growth.
  • Business Insider identified 18 executives spearheading Amazon's media investments.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Amazon is soaring during the pandemic, and not just from online shopping — as people stream more TV and music, Amazon's media business has also benefitted.

While Amazon's retail business makes up the bulk of its revenue, its revenue from its media operations, which spans Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Studios, Amazon Music, Fire TV, Amazon Advertising, and Twitch, is also growing.

Amazon reported $96 billion in third-quarter 2020 revenue; of that, its media business accounts for $5 billion in advertising and $6.5 billion in subscriptions, including Prime memberships that includes benefits like free shipping and video programming. While it still trails giants like Netflix, Amazon spent $7 billion on video and music content last year, showing it has ambitions to compete against Netflix, Hulu and others.

Amazon also recently bet big on podcasting with the acquisition of startup Wondery, a deal reportedly worth $300 million.

While Amazon's media revenue is significantly smaller than its core retail business, media has high margins that offset retail's slim margins, said Michael Levine, senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group. Amazon also uses its investments like original content and streaming music to prop up its other areas of interest including the consumer-facing hardware business that develops and creates smart devices like Amazon Fire-enabled TVs and digital assistant platform Alexa.

"Anything that they do in video or music isn't going to be large enough to offset the other part of the business," he said. "They have much higher aspirations of what they can do with video."

Amazon's entertainment ambitions for original content have become more clear with movies and TV shows like "Borat 2," "The Boys," and the worldwide rights to the upcoming film "Without Remorse" based on Tom Clancy's hit book.

Business Insider identified the 18 executives leading Amazon's media business. We relied on our reporting to create the list, which includes executives from across entertainment, media and advertising.

Below are the executives in alphabetical order by last name.

Lauren Anderson and Ryan Pirozzi, co-heads of content and programming, IMDB TV

Anderson and Pirozzi oversee the content strategy for Amazon's free, ad-supported streaming-video service, IMDB TV, where they're leading the push to make original content for the service that was formed in 2019 as Freedive, and license popular shows like "Mad Men" and "Schitt's Creek."

After an internal shakeup in February, Anderson and Pirozzi took over IMDB TV's content team, under the umbrella of Amazon Studios. IMDB TV VP Mark Earner runs the rest of the business, including the business, product, and development teams.

Anderson and Pirozzi are trying to craft a programming slate that's distinct from the originals on Amazon's subscription service Prime Video, known for shows like "The Boys" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

IMDB TV's first original, "Alex Rider," a teen-spy series based on Anthony Horowitz's young-adult novels, landed in November to solid critical and audience reception. And the platform has more originals in development, including a court show with Judge Judy Sheindlin, the series "High School" based on the memoir by musicians Tegan and Sara Quin, and a new take on the old TNT crime drama, "Leverage."

Anderson was the head of strategic content for Amazon Studios before IMDB TV. Prior to Amazon, she developed originals for Snap, as chief content officer of Indigo Development and Entertainment Arts, a joint-venture between NBCUniversal and Snap. She was also a programming executive at NBC Entertainment, and worked at the NBA.

Pirozzi was head of worldwide TV and film licensing for Prime Video before joining the IMDB TV team. He's been with Amazon for nine years. He was also an executive at Best Buy. He previously served five years in the US Air Force.

Chris Bodkin, head of US OTT and audio advertising, Amazon Advertising

Bodkin oversees Amazon's over-the-top, audio and emerging product ad business, and one of his biggest mandates is making sure people don't feel bombarded by ads when they're engaging with media on Amazon. 

Amazon makes most of its advertising revenue from search ads sold on its websites and apps but has pushed hard into connected TV advertising to rival Roku, Pluto TV, and Hulu. The e-commerce giant has also started selling some audio ads on Amazon Music that are part of Bodkin's purview.

Most recently, Bodkin has pushed marketers to shift traditional TV ad dollars to its streaming platform. As cord-cutting grows, Amazon claims that its audience is soaring and skews younger. In 2020, Amazon reported that 50 million people watch Fire TV every month.

A former NBCUniversal ad exec, he joined Amazon in 2014.


Steve Boom, VP, Amazon Music

Boom joined Amazon in 2012 and spearheads Amazon Music, Amazon's bet on streaming that competes with Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. He reports to Amazon's advertising boss Paul Kotas.

Amazon Music hit more than 55 million users in July 2020, inching in on Apple Music. Amazon Music has six price tiers, including one that's free to Prime members and an ad-supported version, and it's critical to expanding Amazon's hardware business because it's tightly integrated into Alexa, the digital assistant platform that powers Amazon devices.

Overseeing strategy, licensing, product development, marketing, industry relations and business development for Amazon Music, Boom has focused on expanding Amazon Music internationally to countries like Brazil over the past year. Amazon reports that Amazon Music's more than doubled its users in France, Italy, and Spain year-over-year in 2019. 

He is also chairman of the board of directors of charity MusicCares.

Boom reports to Paul Kotas, SVP of worldwide advertising at Amazon.

Albert Cheng and Vernon Sanders, co-heads of TV, Amazon Studios

Amazon Studios reached a new TV prominence recently with hits like "The Boys" and "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" and critically acclaimed shows like "Fleabag" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" under Cheng and Sanders, the top execs overseeing all of the studio's scripted and unscripted series.

The duo, who both report to Salke, are also developing a slew of projects, including "Citadel," a high-profile thriller set to star Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden; a new "Jack Reacher" series; and the highly anticipated "The Lord of the Rings" show.

They're trying to distance Amazon's programming strategy from other streaming competitors by emphasizing quality over quantity, a move that mirrors premium networks like HBO. They've been looking for shows that help expand Prime Video's audience. 

Cheng, who's been with Amazon since 2015, also serves as the studio's chief operating officer, overseeing programming and scheduling, music for the studios' series and films, consumer research, and technology. He ran the studio for a stint, before Salke was brought on to replace ousted executive Roy Price.

Sanders was a longtime exec at NBC, where he worked alongside Salke before joining Amazon Studios in 2018. He was the network's executive vice president of current programming for seven years, among other roles within NBCUniversal, working on shows including "This Is Us," "The Good Place," "30 Rock," and "The Office." 

Sara Clemens, COO, Twitch

Twitch has benefitted from the surge in livestreaming during the pandemic, with hours watched jumping 50% between March and April 2020 and 101% in April year-over-year.

Clemens is behind Twitch's work to expand into new areas like sports and music while focusing on its core gamers. Her music team builds relationships with musicians as names like Diplo and Charlie Puth stream from their channels while the pandemic puts touring on hold.

Sports is another big growth area. Twitch relaunched its Twitch sports channel this year and is signing deals with sports organizations like Spanish soccer league La Liga to broadcast games. Through Amazon's partnership with the National Football League, Twitch will stream 11 "Thursday Night Football" games this year.

Most recently, Clemens has dealt with concerns about hate speech on Twitch.

Before joining Twitch in early 2018, Clemens was Pandora's chief operating officer and held top corporate jobs at Microsoft and LinkedIn. She is on the boards of Karat, Hootsuite, and Duolingo.

Marie Donoghue, VP, global sports video

Amazon has ambitions to gobble up live sports content, but with an eye toward Prime members.

Donoghue, who leads Amazon's efforts to acquire live and on-demand sports rights and distribution deals, is looking for sports content that complements Amazon Prime's programming. While Amazon has made a push to bid on some competitive sports like the rights to the digital broadcasts of the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" games, it has passed on bidding for other digital rights like the PGA Tour.

"We are not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to sports," Donoghue told Sports Business Journal in February 2020. "Amazon Prime is a membership service. Prime Video is one benefit you get for being a member. My job is to figure out how to use live sports to enhance that membership."

In the case of the NFL, Amazon splits the rights of "Thursday Night Football" games with Fox and the NFL Network, giving Amazon a way to reach an audience that isn't watching traditional TV.

Donaghue is a former ESPN exec who spent nearly two decades at the sports publisher. At ESPN, she oversaw then-digital verticals Grantland and FiveThirtyEight. She also played a key role in ESPN films, including the "30 For 30" and "O.J.: Made in America" documentaries.

Latasha Gillespie, executive head of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Amazon Studios

Gillespie launched and leads the team within Amazon Studios that's charged with improving diversity and inclusion across its footprint, including its content and creative community.

Gillespie has been in her role since 2018. She championed, among other efforts, a program with Howard University that aims to train African-American students and other underrepresented groups to enter the entertainment industry.

Gillespie isn't a traditional media exec. Before Amazon Studios, she led the global diversity and inclusion group at Amazon corporate. There, she spearheaded a conference that brought together academics, activists, and researchers for conversations on race and ethnicity.

Before Amazon, she spent 20 years in finance and human resources roles at Caterpillar. She was also the company's diversity chief for a time before heading up HR for its Africa, Middle East, CIS, Russia, and Asia-Pacific regions.

Mike Hopkins, SVP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios

Hopkins joined Amazon in February after running Sony Pictures Television and Hulu, where he helped the subscription-streaming service find its content lane, landing its first hit series with "The Handmaid's Tale." He also oversaw TV distribution at Fox prior to Hulu.

At Amazon, where he reports to CEO Jeff Bezos, Hopkins is focusing on growing the video business internationally. In September, he said he's seeking to have more than a dozen originals each in 15 markets including India in the next year or so. 

He also wants to make Prime Video easier to navigate. A Prime Video subscription includes original and licensed content like Netflix and other rivals, but users in some markets can also add on subscriptions to other services like Showtime or Starz, or rent and buy movies and TV shows for additional costs.

"We have probably the most complicated business model of the SVOD players, so that makes the customer experience more important for us," he said at an event, reported

Walker Jacobs, CRO, Twitch

Jacobs is at the center of Twitch's plans to make money from video streaming.

A former media sales executive at companies like Thompson Reuters, WarnerMedia, and Fandom, he joined Twitch in 2018 and has poached agency and media talent including Sarah Iooss, head of North American sales, and Sarah Baehr, head of agency development and former Horizon Media executive to help sell marketers on Twitch.

Marketers have been cautious about running ads alongside gaming content for brand-safety concerns and fear of annoying users, and Walker is tasked with helping brands like Wendy's and Hershey's spend more on the platform.

"Twitch is complicated, and there's a lot of nuance to Twitch, so we have a tremendous responsibility to education and investing in it, spending time with agencies and helping them understand the capabilities and possibilities of what they can do, and really helping creatives unlock their ideas on Twitch," Walker told Fast Company last year.

Twitch is increasingly getting roped into Amazon's advertising ambitions after years of running independently. Amazon Advertising recently started pitching Twitch's ad inventory to advertisers. A pitch deck sent to ad buyers shows Twitch had 159 million monthly and 26.6 million daily unique visitors in the second quarter of 2020.

Matt Newman and Julie Rapaport, co-heads of movies, Amazon Studios

Newman and Rapaport oversee Amazon Studio's original film output, from genre films to tentpoles like "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," which made a splash last fall, getting what Amazon said were "tens of millions of viewers" on opening weekend.

Rapaport, who has been in the role since 2018, is charged with developing and acquiring movies with broader commercial appeal, as well as finding projects from distinct filmmakers.

She brought in recent films like Regina King's feature-film directorial debut, "One Night in Miami," the Lili Reinhart-starring teen romance "Chemical Hearts," and "Beautiful Boy" with Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet.

Newman, meanwhile, has driven Amazon to bring more films directly to streaming on Prime Video, or to the service after short runs in theaters. The "Borat" sequel, for instance, went straight to streaming as many theaters were closed in the US.

Newman oversaw international distribution at Amazon Studios in an earlier role. He's been with the company since 2012, previously as head of UK film for Prime Video and before that in Amazon's marketplace business. Newman worked at Disney's venture-capital arm, Steamboat Ventures, before Amazon.

Rapaport joined Amazon in 2015 from The Weinstein Company. She started her career at the William Morris Agency.

Newman and Rapaport both report to Salke.

Ukonwa Ojo, CMO, Prime Video and Amazon Studios

Marketing vet Ojo joined Amazon as CMO for Amazon's entertainment division in September 2020, where her goal is to build awareness around Prime Video. She reports to SVP of Prime Video and Amazon Studios Mike Hopkins. 

Ojo was Hopkins' first big hire since he joined Amazon in March 2020.

Ojo previously had global CMO stints at MAC Cosmetics and Coty and marketing roles at Unilever and General Mills. At MAC Cosmetics, she worked on features like an augmented reality tool that lets people virtually try on makeup and a video chat tool.

Ryan Redington, VP of music industry, Amazon Music

Redington is a long-time Amazon employee who has worked in movie and music roles at the e-commerce giant since 2009 and helped lauch Amazon Music's first two streaming tiers: Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited.

He is responsible for Amazon Music's label relations, programming, artist marketing and editorial — playing a key role in building relationships to help Amazon win over the music industry. Redington led a deal with Garth Brooks to bring the country music star's music catalog exclusively to Amazon's streaming platform and also helped broker Ariana Grande's performance at Amazon's Prime Day live concert in 2018.

Amazon Music plans to increase its staff and marketing to increase awareness about its streaming platform.

"We're still very much in the early days of streaming and we're really bullish around the opportunities that are in front of us," Redington told Music Week earlier last year. "We have a lot of plans to continue to invest, not only in Amazon Music but the country genre, you'll see us adding more dollars from a marketing perspective, more headcount to the team, thinking about storytelling, editorial and how we add more value to our listeners."

Redington's reports include Kirdis Postelle, global head of artist marketing, and Raymond Leon Roker, global head of editorial. 

Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios

Amazon hired the former NBC Entertainment president in 2018 to help turn the studio into a serious player in Hollywood. Despite early success with shows like "Transparent," Amazon Studios had fallen behind rivals like Netflix, and was reeling at the time from the ousting of former boss Roy Price.

Salke has since helped position Amazon Studios as a home for top creatives and diverse voices, signing production deals with A-listers including Nicole Kidman, Jordan Peele, and Barry Jenkins. 

Peele told Elle magazine that Salke was a "big part" of his decision to sign with Amazon: "With Jen, it seems like she's secure and confident. That's very reassuring, because ego and fear lead to bad decisions."

Salke has also nurtured shows that were brought in before her tenure, like the Emmy-winning "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and the hit comic-book adaptation, "The Boys." 

Amazon Studios scored a big win recently with the release of "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm," the studio's first tentpole original film, which it said was streamed by "tens of million of customers," during its debut weekend in October.

Salke was president of NBC Entertainment for seven years before Amazon. She was also an executive at Twentieth Century Fox and started her entertainment career at Aaron Spelling Productions in the 1990s.

Soumya Sriraman, head of Prime Video Channels US

Sriraman heads up the Prime Video Channels division in the US, where she's responsible for the side of the video-entertainment business that offers subscription channels to other video services, like HBO, Showtime, and CBS All Access in the US, turning Prime Video into a hub for some popular offerings.

Sriraman is one of Amazon's newer leaders, having joined the company after exiting BritBox in late October.

Sriraman helped launch the joint venture by British TV giants BBC Studios and ITV, as its president and CEO for the US and Canada, and helped grow it to 1.5 million subscribers in three years.

Before BritBox, Sriraman was an executive at BBC Studios, where she was executive vice president of franchises and digital enterprises, helping to grow brands like "Doctor Who" and BBC Earth. She also ran independent film company Palisades Tartan earlier in her career.

Marc Whitten, VP, entertainment devices and services

Whitten oversees Amazon's Fire TV business and is leading its foray into cloud gaming with the streaming service Luna. 

Fire TV, Amazon's streaming-media platform, claims 50 million monthly active users and has become a key distributor for media companies as they shift focus to streaming and connected TVs.

EMarketer estimated in May that Fire TV was the US's second-largest connected-TV platform in 2020, based on users. Whitten has also been growing Fire TV's international footprint; his team introduced the version of the streaming stick that's available in countries around the world.

The former Microsoft Xbox exec is also responsible for launching Amazon's game streaming service, Luna, which is offering early access to some users; and its dedicated game controller that's supposed to cut down on streaming latency.

Whitten told Protocol that he wants to differentiate Luna from other cloud-gaming services like Google's Stadia by getting game publishers like Ubisoft to add their own subscriptions to the platform. It's similar to the way Prime Video offers subscriptions to other video services like Showtime and Starz for additional monthly fees.

Whitten joined Amazon in 2016 from Microsoft, where he was most recently product chief for the Xbox team. At Amazon, Whitten also oversees the team behind the Amazon Appstore.

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