Conrad Riggs, the exec who oversaw the growth of Amazon’s unscripted programming, has left the company. He’s the latest high-level exec to depart Amazon Studios in recent days as the behemoth looks to reorganize its streaming service.
Riggs’ departure comes a day after Joe Lewis, who was head of half hour and drama series development, left the company. Earlier this month, head of international productions Morgan Wandell exited to join Apple in a new gig. Following Lewis’ departure, Sharon Tal Yguado, who joined Amazon in January as head of event series, was given oversight over all of Amazon’s scripted programming.
The reshuffle comes as Amazon Studios undergoes a massive overhaul following the departure of head Roy Price, who was the architect of Amazon Prime’s programming strategy. Price was put on indefinite leave, and then left the company, earlier this month following allegations that he sexually harassed a producer in 2015. Since then, COO Albert Cheng has been overseeing Amazon Studios — although there’s a chance Amazon may bring in a senior executive with more of a creative background to ultimately replace Price.
Amazon had already been overhauling its programming focus, even before Price left, to focus more on big, event series — hence the hiring of Tal Yguado. But the Price scandal, and his departure, accelerated a complete shift in management.
Tal Yguado’s elevation now streamlines what had become a confusing structure on the scripted side, especially as Amazon shifted more of its programming efforts toward the kind of event series that fell under her oversight. That created a redundancy, and ultimately led to the decision to let Lewis go.
The reason behind Riggs’ exit is a little less clear, as the unscripted department operated separately from the scripted side, and had found some success as of late. That included “The Grand Tour,” which Amazon’s Jeff Bezos once noted — in a rare acknowledgment of viewership stats by a streaming service — was its most popular show.
Other recent shows include “All or Nothing,” based on the LA Rams; a docuseries about the McLaren Formula 1 racing team; “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story”; “Eat the World” with Emeril Lagasse, featuring the respected and much-loved chef; “Novak,” a docuseries following the life of famed athlete Novak Djokovic; and “Lore,” based on a popular podcast by Aaron Mahnke, from Glenn Morgan (“The X-Files”), Gale Anne Hurd (“The Walking Dead”), Ben Silverman (“The Office”), and Howard T. Owens (“The Biggest Loser”). Available in more than 200 countries, Amazon has also started to produce localized shows, like the Japanese version of “The Bachelor.”
Amazon’s unscripted output also includes several yet-to-be-announced series, such as a global music show. Riggs’ lieutenants, including Sadoux Kim and Heather Schuster, will likely handle unscripted in the short run. (UPDATED: Schuster has officially been named new head of unscripted at Amazon.)
Prior to Amazon, Riggs was a producer, and before that a partner at Mark Burnett Prods., where he helped launch “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” and an executive at Disney.