Mark Burnett Departing as Head of MGM Worldwide TV
Mark Burnett ‘ Chairman of the worldwide television group, has resigned following the acquisition by Amazon.
The executive and reality producer stated that he was leaving MGM TV’s “day-to-day management” and would like to return to “independently creating, innovating” and will continue to oversee his legacy programs.
Burnett becomes the latest high-ranking MGM executive to exit following the retail giant/streamer’s $8.5 billion deal to acquire the studio behind franchises including James Bond, Rocky/Creed and The Handmaid’s Tale. Motion picture group chairman Michael De Luca and motion picture group president Pam Abdy also exited their roles April 27.
This news comes after Amazon closed its acquisition MGM. As with Abdy and De Luca’s exits, Burnett was expected to leave. Industry observers questioned how Burnett, the reality kingpin behind hit shows like Survivor and The Voice , would fit in with Amazon head Jennifer Salke. The latter exec has headed up Amazon since she departed as NBC Entertainment president in early 2018. Like Salke, Burnett reported to Mike Hopkins, senior vice president.
Hopkins, Burnett addressed the staff via internal memos Monday. (Read both, below. )
The timing of Burnett’s departure is a surprise as Amazon is expected hire a film director to run MGM. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Amazon is in discussions with Courtenay Valenti (former Warner executive), who is looking into her options.
Burnett joined MGM Television in 2015 and was promoted to worldwide television group chairman in 2018 as part of a new contract that was to run through this year. Burnett described the job as the “most enjoyable” in his career. He joined MGM Television in 2023 and was promoted to chairman of the worldwide television group in 2018. This was part of a 2015new contract that would run through the year. His tenure at the studio saw a number of early sales, including Fox’s Beat Shazam and CBS’ TKO –. However, none of these sales have been as big as the breakout hits he is most well-known for.
As previously detailed in a November 2020 THR story, Burnett was best known as an agent of chaos at MGM as the studio weathered high-level executive departures and at least one HR complaint. Sources say Burnett was known for his tendency to interfere in areas where he did not have a defined role. He would also criticize and badger staff members. It’s worth noting that MGM TV president Steve Stark, not Burnett, was responsible for MGM’s most prestigious TV hits, including FX’s Fargo and Hulu’s Emmy-winning The Handmaid’s Tale. Stark stunned colleagues in February 2021 when he stepped down a year into his new contract after a decade with the studio as part of what sources described as the “Burnett-ification” of the company.
Amazon’s Hopkins and Salke will now oversee what to do with MGM’s sprawling film and TV library, which includes more than 4,000 feature titles and 17,000 episodes.
Here’s a list of memos from Burnett & Hopkins:
We’ve worked together for a very long time, in some cases for decades. We have created new shows and kept our legacy hits alive with one of the highest global television renewal rates. This is something I receive a lot of praise. We all know that it’s not just about me. It’s all about you.
It takes great teams of talented people to produce more than 3,200 total hours of television including long-running hits like Survivor, The Voice and Shark Tank and innovative scripted series like The Bible, which together have garnered 143 EMMY nominations.
In 2014 I sold a majority of my companies to MGM and came to this storied, 100 year-old studio as President of Television. I sold the rest to MGM stock later and became Chairman of MGM Global Television, believing in the value MGM.
I had a clear strategic vision to build and grow MGM’s television division with my dynamic team, which included buying great companies like Evolution and Big Fish, adding international scripted and unscripted teams, and starting a documentaries unit. We took calculated risks and hired great people. The business grew.
That growth was critical to MGM’s future, because MGM needed to maximize its value in order to attract a global streaming partner and be ready for its next 100 years. I am proud to have been part of the team that achieved the historic sale to Amazon in 2022.
Now, after months of collaborative transition efforts we have thoughtfully reorganized our teams so that all of them have the chance to prosper under the guidance of Jennifer Salke, Mike Hopkins and Christopher Brearton. I am proud that every person in the TV division was offered a way to contribute during these times of media layoffs. No one was left behind.
As I take a step back from day-to-day management and get back to innovating and creating independently, I will continue to manage my legacy series and will be available to all of your and to Amazon for support and guidance.
Thanks team – I literally could not have done any of this without each of you.
Hi team –
As you likely just read, Mark Burnett has decided to leave Amazon and MGM to resume his work as an independent creator and producer. I wanted to thank him for his many contributions to our success, and for his personal counsel and partnership throughout the integration. You’ll all agree that he’s one of the most creative, innovative, and prolific television producers in the industry. We are extremely fortunate to have him as part of our team.
Mark’s stepping aside of course raises both opportunities and questions about how we’ll be organized moving forward. This will be discussed in detail shortly.
I am incredibly proud of the outstanding television and film content that we produce, and look forward to 2023 and beyond, when as a fully integrated team we continue to build on this legacy. We are looking forward to a bright future together, and we thank you for your dedication and commitment.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.