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Amazon Prime Video and studios architect Jeff Blackburn to retire

Longtime Amazon leader and SVP, Jeff Blackburn, is retiring.
Longtime Amazon leader and SVP, Jeff Blackburn, is retiring from the company.
(Amazon Studios)
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A key architect of Amazon Prime Video, Jeff Blackburn, is retiring from the e-retailing giant.

Blackburn has long been a pillar at Amazon, one of founder Jeff Bezos’ trusted top deputies for more than two decades.

He joined the Seattle-based company in 1998 after helping the then-nascent bookseller navigate its IPO into the public markets while at Deutsche Bank. Blackburn’s association with Amazon spans nearly a quarter century.

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The popular executive helped build important divisions over the years, including Amazon Studios and Prime Video as well as its advertising, music and third-party marketplace businesses.

Jennifer Salke, who has led Amazon Studios since 2018, has now expanded her role nearly nine months after Amazon’s acquisition of MGM.

He took a sabbatical for more than a year, but returned to Amazon in May 2021. Since then, Blackburn has been the uber-head of Amazon’s media and entertainment businesses, which includes the Culver City-based film and television studio and its music, podcasts, Audible, games and Twitch divisions.

“The last 18 months have been a thrill — working with all of you in [Global Media and Entertainment] and launching some of our biggest, boldest projects ever in entertainment and sports,” Blackburn wrote in a Friday morning memo to staff. “But I’ve decided to spend 2023 differently, giving more time to family, and feel strongly this is the right decision for me.”

Before Blackburn rejoined the company, “Amazon media seemed to be thrashing quite a bit, trying to find its place in the world,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at advisory services firm Enderle Group.

“He seemed to bring a certain amount of stability and directional competence into the effort and at least from an outside observer, it looked like during his tenure things had improved in the media department,” Enderle added, referencing Amazon’s efforts to broaden its entertainment offerings in football and podcasts.

Mike Hopkins will continue his leadership role overseeing Prime Video, Amazon Studios, and MGM, the company said in the statement. Hopkins will now report directly to CEO Andy Jassy rather than Blackburn. Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke reports to Hopkins.

Steve Boom will run the Audible, Twitch and Games business in addition to his current portfolio of Music and Podcasting. Boom also will report to Jassy.

Amazon has spent more than $700 million for the first season of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” a high priority for founder Jeff Bezos.

In his email to the staff, Jassy noted several major milestones the entertainment unit achieved during Blackburn’s tenure over the last year and a half.

Amazon’s big swing with the J.R.R. Tolkien “The Lord of the Rings” franchise, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” set records for Prime Video viewership, Jassy said in the memo, noting the series has “driven more Prime sign-ups worldwide during its launch window than any other previous content.”

Amazon’s presentation of “Thursday Night Football on Prime” has been a runaway success, hauling in bigger audiences when compared with its results last year on broadcast TV. Amazon said audiences for Thursday night games have grown 20% compared with last season among the demographic of 18- to 34-year-old viewers.

As the traditional TV audience continues to get older and smaller, sports leagues are expected to continue more contests on streaming platforms to replenish their fan bases.

“Amazon wouldn’t be the same company without Jeff, and I’d like to thank him for his many contributions to the company’s success thus far and in the future,” Jassy wrote.

Jennifer Salke, who has led Amazon Studios since 2018, has now expanded her role nearly nine months after Amazon’s acquisition of MGM.

This executive transition will occur Jan. 1, although Blackburn will remain at Amazon through early 2023, Jassy said.

Staff writers Wendy Lee and Stephen Battaglio contributed to this report.


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