Apple is planning to launch a standalone subscription service that will include dozens of original movies and TV shows, according to sources familiar with the matter. Apple first began scouting and producing original content in late 2016, creating Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke.
At the time, Apple was testing the waters to see consumer and press interest in Apple-produced television. Now, the company has signed at least 24 deals for high-quality exclusive content, including a recent exclusivity deal with Oprah Winfrey, which it hopes will compete with the likes of HBO and Netflix via an upcoming standalone subscription coming in 2019.
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The company had originally planned on bundling all of its original content with Apple Music, and slowly evolving the service into a joint music-TV offering. However, in 2017, Apple changed gears after positive internal response to some in-development projects and decided to begin stockpiling original content for a standalone service.
While many will draw parallels to Netflix, the project is more similar to HBO, which offers its HBO Now subscription service with backlogs of decades of completely original content. Apple’s service, as of now, will only include original material.
Apple is also considering some form of an ‘all-in’ subscription internally, according to sources. The subscription would include access to the companies upcoming TV service and Apple Music. The company has also toyed with including Apple Care and increased iCloud storage with the bundle, but it is unclear if this option will be available.
Apple’s Quest to Dominate TV
Apple has been attempting to disrupt the TV industry publicly for some time, with devices like the Apple TV and Apple’s now-canceled television that is discussed in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs.
In the background, however, Apple has also been attempting to disrupt the content aspect of TV for some time, to no avail. At some point in 2014, Apple began negotiating with content makers to allow the company to create an online-only cable bundle, which would include select networks from companies like Disney, Fox, and CBS.
Networks, however, got spooked, fearing similar cannibalization the record-industry experienced by giving Apple too much access to digital content early on. Network executives agreed not to allow Apple content deals until the market had been populated with competitors and began allowing smaller companies, like SlingTV, PSVue, and YouTube TV to operate.
This latest quest of creating an original content service allows Apple complete control over the content, and due to the companies large bank account, they can produce dozens of shows simultaneously and buy rights to almost all content without having experience.
While the original projects in the TV project, Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke, were not made with a streaming service in mind, their existence inspired Apple to begin scouting other deals.
Vital Signs, an upcoming semi-autobiographical miniseries based on the life of Dr. Dre, is believed to have kick-started Apple’s recent content ambitions. While the series was originally picked up due to it’s relation to music and association with the company executive and legendary artist Dr. Dre, executives were so impressed they decided to hold it and begin looking into other content deals.
The program will have been ready for three years by the time the service launches, but Apple is holding it back to launch day-one with the new service.
Earlier this week, Apple announced a partnership with Oprah Winfrey
While Winfrey will continue to head the OWN television network, any TV content starring her is said to now be exclusive to Apple. The company is supposed to be working on a rebooted talk-show with the star, similar to her original The Oprah Winfrey Show, according to sources.
Apple is also working on original children’s content with Sesame Workshop, the production company behind Sesame Street. Interestingly, Sesame Street is now exclusive to HBO.
Apple is working on dozens of other series as well, including:
- Swagger: Another semi-autobiographical mini-series, this time based on the early life of Kevin Durant
- Little Voices: A 10-episode pilot season of a 30-minute drama-comedy produced by J.J. Abrams and Sara Bareilles
- Central Park: A musical-sitcom with production from 20th Century Fox. The series, created by Loren Bouchard, Josh Gad, and Nora Smith will feature some high-profile celebrities, including Gad himself, Kristen Bell, Leslie Odom Jr. and more.
- Amazing Stories: A revival of Steven Spielberg’s original program from the 80’s.
- Little America: An anthology series co-created by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily v. Gordon.
- ‘Morning Show Drama’: A yet-untitled drama series about a fictional news show starring Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon
- You Think It I’ll Say It: A new, half-hour comedy variety show. (This was originally supposed to star Kristen Wiig, however, she pulled out of the project earlier this week. Its future remains unclear.)
- Carpool Karaoke Season 2
- Shantaram: Eric Warren Singer will write and produce a series based on the hit novel.
- A thriller series produced by M. Night Shyamalan
There are at least 14 more projects in production in addition to the ones listed. We believe all of the shows above will be available in some capacity at launch when the streaming service becomes available.
In addition to a new streaming service, Apple is planning other new content announcements for 2019 as well, including the complete conclusion of digital-music sales in-favor of Apple Music subscriptions.