In a shocker, the co-presidents of the independent studio will exit after their current contract expires in August.
There’s a shake-up at Sony Pictures Television.
Co-presidents Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg are exiting the independent studio that they have called home since 2005. The duo, who are said to have been going through a fierce renegotiation to return to the studio, will exit the company when their current contracts expire Aug. 31. The move was announced Thursday afternoon via an internal memo from Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra. It’s unclear who will replace Erlicht and Van Amburg atop the studio behind hits including Better Call Saul, The Goldbergs and The Crown, though Vinciquerra noted in his memo to staff that he will work with SPT’s existing leadership to ensure a seamless transition. (Read his memo to staff, below.)
Erlicht and Van Amburg’s departure leaves a gaping hole for Sony Pictures Television and parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment. (The television unit contributed 90 percent of the entertainment conglomerate’s overall income in 2016.) The duo, who joined Sony TV in 2005, oversaw programming and production for the independent studio as well as worldwide television as the company shifted its focus from film to high-margin television. The television unit comprised 90 percent of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s overall income in 2016.
The announcement arrives a month after Erlicht and Van Amburg completed multiple rounds of negotiations with the broadcast networks for tough renewals for shows including NBC’s Timeless and ABC’s The Goldbergs, among others.
Erlicht and Van Amburg are highly respected in Hollywood and are known for fighting for content. The duo most recently refused to accept NBC’s decision to cancel freshman drama Timeless and, through a fierce and rapid round of negotiations that included giving up part of the show’s ownership, were able to get the network to reverse its decision and renew the show for a shortened second season. During their tenure, Erlicht and Van Amburg also were able to find new homes for programming including Community (NBC to Yahoo), Unforgettable (CBS to A&E) and Damages (FX to DirecTV), to name a few. They’re currently trying to do the same for slave drama Underground after WGN America exited the scripted business and canceled the critical favorite, as well as ABC’s passed over The Goldbergs spinoff.
The duo’s departure comes as business for an independent studio like Sony TV has become increasingly challenging in an era of dwindling viewership where networks are placing a bigger priority on owning content than ever before. Sony TV is the only studio that does not have direct ties to a broadcast or cable network. This upfronts season, Sony TV saw three of its nine pilots score series orders — down two from a year ago — with all of them co-productions with the network’s studio sibling.
On the cable side, Erlicht and Van Amburg have relationships all over town after producing current and former hits including AMC’s Breaking Bad and its spinoff, Better Call Saul; Netflix’s The Crown and Bloodline; FX’s The Shield, Rescue Me and Justified; NBC’s The Blacklist; and Amazon’s Sneaky Pete. They have been able to lure top showrunners to sign overall deals with the studio including Vince Gilligan, Shawn Ryan, David Shore and Adam F. Goldberg.
The news comes a year after SPT chairman Steve Mosko’s abrupt exit, when the duo were promoted to add worldwide television to their purview that already included programming and production. It also comes a month after Sony Pictures Entertainment tapped Vinciquerra as chairman and CEO to succeed Michael Lynton at the company. Vinciquerra has a strong background in television having run the Fox Networks Group as well as Hearst-Argyle Television and serves on the boards of companies including Univision.
As for a potential successor, Sony Pictures Television still boasts an impressive executive suite that includes president of worldwide networks Andy Kaplan; president of distribution Keith Le Goy and president of ad sales and research Amy Carney, all of whom were promoted alongside Erlicht and Van Amburg following Mosko’s exit last year.
Here’s Vinciquerra’s memo to staff:
I want to make you all aware that Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht will be leaving Sony Pictures Television later this summer to begin a new chapter in their extraordinary careers.
Zack and Jamie have been instrumental in the growth of Sony Pictures Television over the last several years – particularly over the last year as they took on a greater leadership role alongside Keith Le Goy, President of Distribution; Amy Carney, President, Advertiser Sales, Strategy & Research; and Andy Kaplan, President of Worldwide Networks.
Until a replacement is named for Zack and Jamie, I will be working closely with our existing leadership team to ensure a seamless transition.
I want to wish Zack and Jamie all the best. While we are sad to see them go, we are excited by the opportunity to work with them as partners in the future.