Anticipation Builds For Apple’s Original Video Content

During an interview at the Pollstar Live! conference in February, Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior VP of Internet Software and Services, teased an upcoming announcement about Apple’s original video programming. “Hopefully you’ll hear a lot more about this in a little bit of time,” Cue said. Even before that, the tech press had been speculating about what Cue might make say when he speaks at South by Southwest.

It has been a little over a year since Apple announced its entry into original video programming, and since then things have progressed quickly. Cue, who shepherded iTunes and Apple Music to positions of dominance, is now overseeing the company’s video programming. iTunes became the largest online music retailer in 2008, five years after its launch, and Apple Music is rapidly gaining on Spotify on its way to becoming the largest streaming subscription service in the U.S. Whether Cue helps Apple replicate that success is one question — what form programming distribution takes is another.

For at least eight years, there have been rumors of Apple entering into the television provider business. Currently, Apple TV set-top boxes are bundled with the DirecTV Now service. MacRumors reported that Cue maintained a tough negotiating stance during Apple’s own efforts to create a bundled channel subscription service. As of yet, the company hasn’t been able to make the deals that would let it offer its own product at the price point it was reportedly seeking while still delivering a certain quality of user experience — full seasons of shows, the ability for viewers to skip commercials, price freezes for several years, and other quality-of-life features.

Apple’s first original programming appeared last year with Planet of the Apps, a reality show where developers compete for mentorship and funding, and Carpool Karaoke: The Series, based on a popular segment from The Late Late Show with James Corden. Now the focus appears to be on scripted shows.

In November, Apple outbid Netflix for a series starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and will be making two other shows with Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, including a comedy with Kristen Wiig and a thriller starring Octavia Spencer. Steven Spielberg will be producing a reboot of his 1980s anthology show Amazing Stories. A sci-fi series from Battlestar Galactica/Outlander showrunner Ronald D. Moore also joins the lineup, and new deals are being announced regularly.

“It has been a little over a year since Apple announced its entry into original video programming, and since then things have progressed quickly.”

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Lucas Shaw reported in October that Apple’s focus for original programming was on family-friendly shows that would fit in with the content requirements of the App Store. Think prestige and broad appeal rather than the edgy and provocative shows that have been the showpieces for Hulu (The Handmaid’s Tale), Netflix (House of Cards) and Amazon (Transparent). Back in 2009, the first two TV partners reported as being in talks with Apple were CBS and Disney, whose output would fit with a PG-rated mandate.Cue has said regarding Apple Music that he considers exclusives, like ones it has had with Drake or Chance the Rapper, to be useful for promotions, but in the long run, competition is healthier for the music business as a whole. Whether that attitude extends to Apple’s own programming lends more fuel to speculation about what form its distribution will take — will it be part of its Apple Music platform or will Apple launch a new service for video programming? It is this information the industry is waiting for Cue to impart, to see if Apple will be as game-changing for the distribution of video programming as it has been for music.

Eddy Cue was joined by CNN’s Dylan Byers for a Featured Session “Curation in Media – Why It Matters” at SXSW 2018. Watch below:

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