Amazon Studios removes Heather Schuster as head of alternative programming
In yet another shake-up at Amazon Studios, the head of unscripted television, Heather Schuster, has been forced out as the company continues to retool its management team.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed Monday night that Schuster was no longer employed by the Culver City studio. No reason was given for Schuster’s sudden departure.
Schuster, a veteran reality show producer, had been with Amazon for less than a year.
The move comes as Amazon is pivoting in its programming strategy. The company has been moving away from the unscripted programming for its Prime Video service. In February, Amazon hired Jennifer Salke, a former NBC executive who has strong credentials in scripted programming. Increasingly, the priority has been on developing splashy scripted shows, such as a big-budget series adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
Salke also has been working to form her own team in collaboration with co-heads of television Vernon Sanders, who was hired this spring, and Albert Cheng, a three-year veteran of the studio.
Schuster joined Amazon in October and almost immediately became a department head, replacing Conrad Riggs, a longtime executive at Mark Burnett Productions, who was part of the management team assembled by former studio head Roy Price. Price was ousted in October after allegations that he made inappropriate comments to an executive producer of an Amazon show as the #MeToo movement caught traction.
Riggs and other members of Price’s inner circle were shown the door in October as Amazon wanted to make a fresh start.
Schuster also worked on “The Apprentice,” which allowed then-real estate mogul Donald Trump to become a household name.
Deadline first reported Schuster’s ouster, saying it followed an internal investigation into comments Schuster allegedly made in a work meeting. She was not immediately reachable for comment.
In late July, Jason Ropell stepped down as the head of Amazon Studios’ film division. He had been with the streaming service for six years and led the worldwide film division for about two years, overseeing a team of about 150 people. Amazon said that two other executives, Ted Hope and Matt Newman, would step into Ropell’s role on an interim basis.
Schuster’s departure comes two weeks after Paramount fired television President Amy Powell over inappropriate comments. A source said she made racially tinged remarks during a conference call about an upcoming Paramount TV show. Powell has denied making insensitive comments and is said to be exploring legal action against Paramount.
A month earlier, Netflix ousted its chief communications officer for using a racial slur. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a memo to employees he dismissed Jonathan Friedland after deciding that what he said was not “in line with our values as a company.”
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