Apple has been adjacent to Hollywood and the greater entertainment industry for a long time. Thanks to the years-ago negotiations between the movie and music industries and Steve Jobs, consumers can watch movies, TV shows and episodes through iTunes and watch it all in their living rooms through Apple TV.
Now, Apple is said to be considering another big move: To begin producing its own entertainment content, joining Netflix, Amazon and Hulu as technology companies that have turned to creating their own programming.
According to Variety, Apple has begun “preliminary conversations” with Hollywood executives about helping Apple to produce entertainment content. The unit working on this is reporting to high-level Apple executive Eddy Cue. It’s not known whether Apple is thinking about movies, TV shows or both. According to the report:
The scale of Apple’s ambitions vary depending on whom is asked, but one high-level executive who talked with the company said the goal is to create development and production divisions that would churn out long-form content to stream in a bid to compete with Netflix. Apple is hoping to put a headhunting firm on those hires in the coming months, according to source, with the goal of being in operation next year.
The key number here? $203 billion. That’s how much cash Apple was reported to have on hand, as of its last earnings report in July. Apple’s pockets are very, very deep, much deeper than those of, say, Netflix at the time that it jumped into original programming. If the company wanted to hire away top Hollywood talent, sign some kind of exclusive agreement with a major director or showrunner, or go ahead and produce their own Game of Thrones, Apple could. Then, they could go ahead and sell those movies or shows on iTunes, stream them through Apple TV, and monetize them in other ways.
Amazon, Netflix and other companies have reached the conclusion that it’s worth it to invest heavily in order to enhance their existing models with their own entertainment that they own and control. If Apple goes that route as well, expect a major new Hollywood player to emerge - one with, in addition to its ample financial resources, a great deal of data knowledge (based on its years running iTunes) of what entertainment customers want. This could put Apple in position to produce, say, risky, high-budget genre properties that no one has yet touched. (Netflix vs. HBO would become Netflix vs. HBO vs. Apple.)
True, not everything Apple is reported to work on actually comes to fruition, whether we’re talking about an Apple-branded TV or various gadgets over the years that haven’t gotten past the rumor phase. Apple has supposedly been working on a subscription streaming service for at least a couple of years, but that hasn’t been announced either. So even if it is real, it sounds like any Apple content effort is likely years away from producing actual movies or shows.
And it’s worth noting that the notion of a tech giant forming its own studio was attempted by a few years ago with Microsoft and its Xbox Entertainment Studios - which never got off the ground.
Speaking of Apple and movies, a pair of movies about Apple cofounder Steve Jobs are coming this fall. Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a documentary directed by Alex Gibney, opens this Friday, September 4, 2015. And Steve Jobs, the feature film directed by Danny Boyle and starring Michael Fassbender as Jobs, arrives October 9th, 2015.