Better late than never. Following recent high-profile deals by both Netflix and Amazon for original streaming content, Apple is reported to be preparing to spend $1 billion to buy itself some credibility when it comes to original TV movies and films — and it’s started with a couple of smart hires to prove it means business.
A report in the Wall Street Journal cites multiple anonymous sources in placing a $1 billion price tag on Apple’s on-screen ambitions, with series and talent already apparently being sourced through agencies.
If that sounds like a lot of money, it is — kind of. For context: Apple currently has $256.8 billion in cash and investments as of May this year, making that $1 billion figure seem somewhat less impressive. Netflix, for example, is spending six times that amount according to its CEO, with Amazon spending somewhere in the region of $4.5 billion. (Hulu’s chief content officer, meanwhile, has said that his company is spending on par with Amazon, to give you an idea of how big Hulu is thinking.) Looked at from those perspectives, Apple’s investment looks far less impressive.
Then again, perhaps Apple is intended to spend large on a few big properties; the WSJ suggests that Apple is looking at a slate of “up to 10” TV series, as opposed to the far more ambitious Netflix, Amazon et al line-ups of original content. (For comparison, Netflix announced 12 new anime projects alone earlier this month.) So the billion dollar figure could merely be the starting point for a far more ambitious plan.
Certainly, the company has put its best foot forward by hiring Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to run original video content efforts back in June; the two had previously run Sony Pictures Television since 2005, overseeing the creation and production of such shows as Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Goldbergs and The Blacklist. Earlier this week, the company also hired former WGN American president Matt Cherniss to oversee development efforts; Cherniss was responsible for development of the critically acclaimed Manhattan and Underground.
There’s definitely a basis for high quality television there, even if Apple’s few original video productions to date — the competition series Planet of the Apps and full-length Carpool Karaoke spin-off from James Corden’s late night show — have left audiences unstirred.
For now, all we can do is wonder just how far $1 billion can get you these days. (I mean, beyond one hundred episodes of Game of Thrones, of course.)