Television

Mike Hopkins departs Sony Pictures; joins Amazon as head video entertainment

The impact on the India business is yet unclear.

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MUMBAI: Jeff Bezos has scored a coup of sorts. The Amazon chairman & CEO has signed up Sony Pictures Television (SPT) chairman Mike Hopkins as leader of the video entertainment business – including Prime Video and Amazon Studios – reporting directly to him. Hopkins who joined SPT- with oversight of its TV production, distribution and marketing operations globally for the studio -  in November 2017 after serving as CEO of Hulu will be leaving the Japanese company on 24 February 2020.

The anouncement was made by Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) chairman & CEO Tony Vinciquerra in an internal note to staff.  Said Vinciquerra in the memo: “I want to thank Mike for his outstanding leadership since arriving at the studio in late 2017. From day one he was charged with rethinking the way we run our television businesses. Under his watch, SPT has been transformed into a stronger and more nimble organization, able to pivot and change course quickly in today’s rapidly evolving entertainment landscape. As part of our ‘Reimagine’ efforts, SPT has undergone essential structural change and realignment—such as combining our networks operations with distribution/home entertainment into a new territory management model and refocusing our network portfolio. Additionally, SPT has made several significant deals on the M&A front and forged new relationships with top creators and talent. These were not small tasks and would not have been possible without the outstanding work of SPT’s excellent divisional leadership and their teams, who will continue to drive our business forward.”

During his stint at SPT, Hopkins negotiated with AT&T and helped Sony acquire 42 per cent of GSN, it did not already own. SPT also sold a majority stake in streaming service Crackle to Chicken Soup for the Soul under his watch.

At the commerce giant, current Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke will report to Hopkins. Salke is expected to drive the creative at the studio while the bespectacled Hopkins is expected to drive distribution and biz dev. The current boss of Amazon’s streaming platform senior vice president of business development &  digital entertainment Jeff Blackburn – to whom Salke has so far been reporting – is on a sabbatical. Worldwide Amazon Video vice-president Greg Hart will also report to Hopkins.

Blackburn too sent an internal note to Amazon staff in which he said: “Mike comes to us with over 20 years of industry experience at Fox, Hulu and Sony. He has an extensive track record as a global business leader in media, film and TV — negotiating landmark content and distribution agreements, running marketing operations, leading product/tech teams, and overseeing production of breakthrough television content. I have had the pleasure of working closely with many of you as we’ve built these video businesses from the ground up. You’ve created a global streaming service and award-winning original content that our customers love. And I know you’re only getting started. I’m so excited for Mike to join Jen and Greg [Hart], and the broader video leadership team, and build upon the global momentum we’ve experienced in 2019.”

Sony’s Vinciquerra also announced that a realignment of the leadership structure is underway at SPT following Mike’s decision.  More responsibility will come president of worldwide distribution Keith LeGoy’s way and he will now oversee Funimation and the networks operations, programming and strategy group. Jeff Frost, president of US production, will now oversee first-run television, Embassy Row and the new game-show development team run by Mike Richards. LeGoy and Frost will report directly to Vinciquerra. As will the profitable India operations headed by CEO NP Singh.

How this will impact Sony Pictures Networks’ India’s continuing conversations with Reliance Industries to acquire its entertainment TV business under TV18 is not clear at the time of writing. With Singh directly reporting to Vinciquerra the due dilligence process which is on currently by Sony in India could speed up or take time.

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