When Lauren Anderson was very young, she was fascinated by TV. “I thought that people lived literally inside of the television and my mother was always nervous that I was going to break the TV trying to step inside,” recalled Anderson, now co-head of content and programming for Amazon’s free, ad-supported service IMDb TV, where she oversees all development, production, licensing, research and strategy. “And now I do work inside of the television.”
Within that universe, Anderson is a smash hit because “she has an ability to think big and she loves what we do,” Christel Miller, senior creative executive at Amazon Studios, said. “She’s also an insanely hard worker.”
The TV landscape where Anderson now works is very different from the one she watched as a child in Ohio, when the idea of running programming for an ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) network could not even be fathomed.
She started her programming career at a traditional broadcaster, NBC, after working in the player development group of the National Basketball Association’s Community and Player Programs Department, a job that followed a summer internship while she was at Columbia University.
“While I was at the NBA, I started getting really interested in what we were broadcasting out to the fans,” she said. She landed in the NBC Associates Program after explaining in interviews that sports and TV both involved entertainment and working with the most talented creators.
At NBC Entertainment, she rose to senior VP of primetime programming, working at the studio and network on shows like The Good Place, Parks and Recreation, The Office and The Carmichael Show.
“Even while I was at NBC, I was always looking to try something different, something special,” she said, referring to those shows. “One thing I noticed about myself is that I’m always interested in the next thing and where we’re headed. I was always talking about how engaged younger fans were, digital viewership and watching online. I said, ‘I want to go where the customers are.’ ”
That led her to Indigo Development and Entertainment Arts, the studio joint venture between NBCUniversal and Snapchat. Under her leadership as chief content officer, Indigo began creating scripted content like The Dead Girls Detective Agency and Kappa Crypto, the first scripted series from the company to attract a major ad sponsorship.
Where the customers were really going were to streaming giants like Amazon, which Anderson joined in 2019 as head of strategic content for Amazon Studios, shepherding series such as the Savage x Fenty Show for Prime Video.
In 2020, she moved within Amazon to the programming role at IMDb TV.
Eye Toward What’s Next
“I’m always looking for what’s the new business and the IMDb TV business model, positioned inside of Amazon, is exciting to me,” she said. “We are not behind a paywall and are available to everyone, so I still feel like I’m going to where the people are. We can be their first point of entry to lead to deeper engagement within the company. There’s a false belief that commercials are the enemy, but people really want to watch good caliber shows when it is convenient.”
The service is striving to provide premium original content for free. Under Anderson, IMDb tv has introduced original programming like the scripted series Alex Rider and the powerful docuseries Moment of Truth, which investigates whether racism and corruption in North Carolina led to the conviction of the wrong man in the high-profile murder of Michael Jordan’s father in the 1990s. Deals are in place for two Norman Lear projects, a new court show involving Judge Judy Sheindlin and for a spinoff of Amazon Prime Video’s hit series Bosch.
“We’re really just one year in with our originals and I’m really excited about our progress so far,” Anderson said. “Our early adopters are watching now, but I’d love it if a year from now these shows have a resurgence as the service and awareness grows.”
Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.
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