Apple Putting Big Bucks into TV Content Production

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by Tim Goodman, TV Critic, The Hollywood Reporter    June 21 2017
Getty Images
From left, Apple’s Eddy Cue, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht

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When something deemed dangerous and worrisome fails to materialize, people begin to make fun of it. It’s a natural defense mechanism that helps them pretend they’ve beaten “the big bad.”For years, Apple was going to revolutionize the TV business. It never happened. The Apple TV streaming hardware has been good, not great. A rumored television — an actual Apple TV, not something attached to it -— never appeared. Years of talk about Apple one day getting into the content game led nowhere. When its first unscripted series, Planet of the Apps, finally arrived on June 6 it was coolly dismissed by critics (the series is a bland, poorly edited version of Shark Tank). A second series, Carpool Karaoke, spun off from James Corden’s popular Late Late Show segment, has been delayed and won’t arrive until August.

So much for the revolution, right? Until last week you could still hear the snickers of anyone still interested enough to show disdain.

Ah, but on Friday things got very, very interesting. Apple poached respected TV executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht when Sony Pictures Television didn’t move fast enough to keep its co-presidents. The studio they ran presided over the creation of cable and streaming series Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Crown, Bloodline, Sneaky Pete, The Shield, Damages, Justified, Underground, Outsiders and network series The Goldbergs and The Blacklist, among others.

Any pretense that Apple is not diving into the television content business just vanished in a very big way.

Getting Van Amburg and Erlicht — signings announced by Apple’s Eddy Cue — is a huge deal because now Apple has two proven executives and an eye-popping $257 billion in cash just sitting there. If that’s not enough to give Netflix and Amazon future nightmares then it’s definitely going to wake them the hell up right this instant.

There will be no revolution of the TV business by Apple — that opportunity was already lost to Netflix and Hulu — but Friday’s announcement nevertheless shakes up the entire industry. I talked about this last week on my podcast with Jason Snell, the Macworld vet who not only is a tech guru but who built a career around covering all things Apple. We geeked out on what a game-changer this could be and how it could happen.

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