Sony Pictures Television president Jeff Frost is leaving the indie studio.
The exec, who had been with Sony since joining from ABC Studios in 2008, had led the studio since he and Jason Clodfelter and Chris Parnell were promoted to co-presidents in 2017 following the departures of Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to Apple.
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Frost, the former business affairs exec at the studio, had been overseeing the TV division solo since Parnell left for Apple. Clodfelter has been serving as co-president under Frost for the past two years. Frost will remain at Sony through September and help with the forthcoming transition. Frost and Sony Pictures Television Studios chairman Ravi Ahuja announced the news in separate memos to staff Thursday. (Read both, below.)
In replacing Erlicht and Van Amburg, Sony CEO Tony Vinciquerra restructured the position to create what the studio called a new “office of the president” to oversee all U.S. production and programming for Sony Pictures Television. The role left the business side to Frost and gave Parnell and Clodfelter creative oversight of the studio, including drama and comedy, reality and syndication, scripted and current programming, talent and casting, and movies and miniseries as well as TriStar Television.
Frost first joined Sony in 2008 from ABC Studios where he served as senior vp business affairs. During his role as executive vp U.S. business affairs at SPT, he was charged with overseeing strategic counsel on the company’s network, cable and syndication productions as well as managing SPT’s negotiations between the studio and its network, production companies, talent and other outside companies.
Frost’s exit arrives as Sony TV has faced an uphill battle in an era where networks and streamers alike have prioritized owning their own content. Sony, as an indie studio, dropped its focus on broadcast TV in favor of streaming deals over the past couple years. The network has only a handful of broadcast shows remaining (The Goldbergs, The Blacklist, The Good Doctor) and has seen a number of high-profile creatives exit for bigger companies. Key creatives who have left their longtime Sony deals include Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Preacher), Adam F. Goldberg (The Goldbergs) and David Caspe (Happy Endings), among others. In a bid to offset those departures, Sony TV has been aggressive in competing for other top showrunners and has signed deals with Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Spider-Man, The Lego Movie) and Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon (Homeland) while maintaining a stable that includes Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad).
Here are Ahuja and Frost’s memos:
I am writing today to share that Jeff Frost has decided to step down from his role as president of our U.S. production operations to explore new opportunities.
To ensure a smooth transition, Jeff has agreed to stay on in his current role while we search for a new leader. He has built a strong management team in the U.S. production group, and I’m pleased to share that Jason Clodfelter has recently renewed his contract and will remain in his current role.
On a personal level, Jeff’s pragmatic and welcoming approach have made it a pleasure to work alongside him during my 15 months here. Jeff is one of the hardest working and most dedicated executives I’ve ever met. He has been an outstanding leader at Sony Pictures Television during a time of extraordinary transformation in our industry, and I am certain that he will continue to succeed in whatever he pursues in the future.
Throughout his roughly 15 years at the studio – from his time in Business Affairs through his current role leading U.S. Production – Jeff has been a driver of many of SPT’s major achievements. He has successfully presided over the U.S. studio during a once-in-a-century pandemic, and Jeff and his team have navigated the evolving media landscape, significantly increasing our volume of content produced for streaming platforms in recent years. He helped position SPT as the preeminent home for creative talent and under his leadership, the U.S. production studio has created numerous successful series and franchises, such as Cobra Kai, The Boys, Outlander, Better Call Saul, The Good Doctor, SWAT, The Blacklist, The Goldbergs, The Wheel of Time, Woke,and For All Mankind, to name a few. He has also been instrumental in advancing our diversity and inclusion efforts, creating new outreach programs, expanding our diverse writers and directors’ programs, and establishing a new diverse casting showcase.
I know many of you share my gratitude to Jeff for his years of commitment to SPT and for being a truly wonderful colleague. Please join me in wishing Jeff all the best for the future.
After leading the U.S. Studio for the last five years and being a member of this illustrious team for nearly 15, and following much contemplation, I have made the decision to move onto my next venture. This wasn’t easy as I’m immensely proud of what we’ve all accomplished and achieved over the last few years, especially in the last two, during which the pandemic and market conditions challenged us unlike ever before. In fact, five years ago, the conventional wisdom was that Sony Pictures Television Studios could not survive without a major distribution platform that would televise SPTS content. Well, thanks to the tenacious and tireless efforts of this prodigious team, not only did SPTS survive, we thrived! This studio has never been more successful or prolific. In the last year, SPTS hit an all-time high in the number of series being produced and is now considered the preeminent independent television studio in the business! In an ever-changing landscape and incredibly competitive marketplace, that is no small feat.
When I originally started in 2008, SPTS was a burgeoning television studio with the mission of becoming one of the most esteemed studios in the business. Today, we have executed on that mission and so much more. We are currently producing over 50 shows, partnering with every major distributor on virtually every platform from streaming to broadcast to cable.
The caliber and gravitas of what we have created is simply undeniable. From Better Call Saul to Shark Tank, The Blacklist, The Boys, Atypical, Cobra Kai, The Afterparty, The Good Doctor, The Goldbergs, Wheel of Time, Woke, S.W.A.T., and Outlander, these are some of the most acclaimed and iconic series in television. Many of these series are among the highest viewed on their respective platforms. But it’s not only the popularity of these series that stands out, it’s also the quality. We have produced some of the most critically acclaimed series today which go on every year to receive countless Emmy and other award nominations. In fact, last year we achieved a very rare feat, receiving Emmy nominations for Best Comedy (Cobra Kai), Best Drama (The Boys), and best Alternative Series (Shark Tank). Cobra Kai’s nomination was especially notable as it was the studio’s first Best Comedy nomination in more than 20 years. And we have some of the most anticipated and notable impending projects including Accused, A Spy Among Friends, Twisted Metal, Platonic, Panhandle, Alert, and The Night Agent.
We also excel at ensuring the continued viability of our series. We consistently enjoy one of the most successful renewal rates for our series year over year of any independent studio. In fact, this season, all of our scripted series on broadcast are again returning for another year. We’ve earned an unparalleled reputation for ensuring that our creator’s vision is realized when a project is not renewed or ordered by the initial commissioning network. The diligence of this team in finding a new home for our content is extraordinary. Cobra Kai, One Day at a Time, and LA’s Finest are shining examples of this monumental and important feat that has elevated this studio even higher.
It has been the hallmark of SPTS to be at the forefront of the television business. For this, I’m incredibly proud of our ability to identify and forge relationships with new and emerging platforms as the business and television landscape evolves. From some of the earliest deals with Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu to more recent arrangements with the newest players in the industry like Spectrum, Freevee, and Roku, we have been incredibly successful in orchestrating and negotiating some of the most innovative and artful deals with both mature and emerging platforms. We recently negotiated groundbreaking deals with Spectrum, Roku, Peacock, and Britbox/iTV to bring premium content to those platforms in a very imaginative way. We are renowned for negotiating some of the most creative and clever deals in the business.
We built this studio under the premise of “Creative First,” always letting the storytelling and creative vision lead the way. In so doing, this team has been remarkable in bringing some of the most fantastic and poignant stories to life with some of the best creators in the business. Over the last five years, we have been very successful in attracting and retaining some of the most distinguished talent in the business from Phil Lord & Chris Miller to Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, Robia Rashid, Shawn Ryan, Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters, Tyler the Creator, Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald & Hayden Schlossberg, Carla Kettner, Vince Gilligan, Amy Lippman, George Tilman, Jr., Doug Robinson, Matt Roberts, Neil Moritz, John Eisendrath, Norman Lear, and Nick Stoller (to name just a few). This is truly an All-Star roster.
Having accomplished this over the past few years despite the devastating impact of the pandemic and a complete shutdown of all of our productions is especially astounding. This team’s true colors were never more apparent than how we reacted in this unparalleled time in our industry. Notwithstanding the immense challenges and hardship we faced, we were able to devise the safest protocols, practices and procedures that allowed us to resume production before any other major studio in the business. And not only did we return to production in a smart, safe and efficient manner, we also continued to sell new projects at a record pace.
How this team has succeeded over the past few years is nothing short of spectacular, which makes this the right time for me to move on to my next endeavor. My intent is to continue working with this team through September to ensure continuity and a smooth transition. I want to thank Tony and Ravi for the amazing opportunity they have given me over the past five years. I also want to thank everyone on this incomparable team for all of their phenomenal efforts in making all of this happen. I truly love this Sony family, which has made my decision even more difficult than it would otherwise be. This team is integral to the success we have all enjoyed over the past few years and I look forward to watching you all carry on that legacy and continue to excel!
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