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Cable Vet Kathy Payne Joins Amazon’s Ranks as Channels Content Executive

Observers expecting Amazon to explore deeper dives into streamed content distribution take note: Former Suddenlink Communications and Cox Communications programming executive Kathy Payne has joined the online retailer as head of content acquisition for pay TV offering Amazon Channels.

Payne is well-versed in the ways of negotiating carriage deals with programmers. She served in various capacities for more than 20 years at Cox — last as vice president of content acquisition — before moving to Suddenlink in 2014 as senior vice president and chief programming officer. She left Suddenlink in June, after its purchase by Altice N.V., now Altice USA.

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed Payne is an employee and her official title is head of content acquisition, but declined further comment. Payne did not respond to The Wire’s request for comment.

Payne’s experience dealing with the likes of The Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox and Time Warner Inc. could indicate Amazon is getting serious about beefing up the services available through Amazon Channels. Launched in 2015, Amazon Channels is an offshoot of the Amazon Prime Video service, selling premium channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz as well as about 100 specialized streaming channels like Seeso, Shudder and Acorn TV. Amazon Channels is part of the overall Amazon Prime Video subscription, but some channels carry an additional fee.

Wedbush Securities managing director, equity research Michael Pachter, who follows Amazon, told The Wire, “Payne’s skill set certainly lends itself more to linear programming than to on-demand reruns, and her hire by Amazon suggests that they might be considering getting into OTT services that include traditional pay TV.”

Amazon has said before it hopes to keep growing Amazon Channels, which grew from around 80 at its inception to more than 100 this year. Its a la carte menu includes HBO for $15 per month, Starz for $9, Shudder for $5 and Seeso for $4. It doesn’t offer live feeds of those services, or any broadcast or basic-cable networks, but Amazon has said over time it could consider packaging channels into bundles at a discount.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon became an OTT distributor of linear television programming, and given the company’s substantial investment in [cloud computing platform Amazon Web Services] and in licensed and original TV and movie content, it isn’t a big stretch for them to get into nationwide television service,” Pachter said.