How Apple plans to take over TV
The technology giant’s push is all about quality — and will likely shake up the TV market
The TV market is no place for cowards. As we are gradually approaching “Peak TV” — the day when millions of TV viewers will be throwing their hands up in despair because they no longer know where to look first — the battle of the Titans is raging on the series market. Amazon, Netflix, Disney, Hulu — they all want to have their piece of the cake; preferably the biggest, of course.
For audiences, on the other hand, the situation couldn’t be better as there is currently no shortage of good material. If you’re a fan of high-quality television, this is your moment as the big players are literally flooding the market with new productions. Around 520 are about to air in 2018 alone. It’s the golden age of television.
A New Kid On The Block
Now, Apple wants to reap the rewards as well. At first glance, however, the plans of the newest kid on the block are looking pretty minimalistic. The Californian tech-company wants to produce just ten series for the time being. Estimated budget for 2018: 1 billion US-dollars — a tiny figure in comparison to its competitors. Netflix wants to spend 7 billion in the same period, Amazon 4,5 billion.
Yet, Apple’s approach is different. Quality instead of quantity is the motto. Apple’s previous moves all fall in line with this philosophy. A few weeks ago, the company announced that it will rent office and production spaces in the legendary Culver Studios — the place where “Gone with the Wind” and “Matrix” were shot. It’s a highly symbolic decision. The message Apple tries to convey: “We are serious about quality. Our yardstick is Hollywood, not ordinary television.”
And the show of force continues. Apple has recruited some of the industry’s top personnel to spearhead it’s TV endeavours. For instance Jay Hunt. For a long time, the Australian has been one of the most powerful women in the British TV industry and is regarded as a tough businesswoman with an eye for high-quality bestsellers: The BBC hits “Sherlock” and “Luther” both fell under her aegis, later she helped Channel 4 to nick the BBC’s “The Great British Bake Off”.
At Apple, she will be part of an “All Star” team. The Californians have already hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two Sony executives who, in the past, have helped launching “Breaking Bad” and “The Crown” — two of the most successful quality TV series in recent years.
The TV-Equivalent of a Military Parade
So what can we hope to expect from Apple? Not much is known so far but the first few announcements sound promising. For one, Apple has tasked Hollywood-“Wunderkind” Damien Chazelle — director of “Whiplash” and “La La Land” — to create a drama series for them. Chazelle has recently re-defined what mass-compatible art-house cinema can look like. The 33-year-old has a good sense for cinematography, strong narratives and the right interplay of all essential cinematic elements: sound, image, story, mise-en-scène and montage. Bringing him on board emphasises Apple’s push for quality.
Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, gets a licence from Apple to produce a new edition of his “Amazing Stories” mystery series from the 1980s. While Netflix has produced a highly successful Spielberg-Hommage with “Stranger Things”, Apple went straight for the “original” — a cunning move which brings even more star power to it’s portfolio.
And the list continues. Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston will both produce and star in a “Morning-TV“ drama, the creator of “Battlestar Galactica” will helm a space saga and then there are also plans for a futuristic series as well as a a documentary about luxury estates all over the world. Apple’s hiring list is the industry equivalent of a Russian military parade.
The future certainly looks interesting. While Amazon, Netflix and Co. have focused on diversification — a few big blockbusters, mixed with smaller and cheaper productions — Apple’s focus seems to be mainly on quality: a few, handpicked series and genres, all with the potential for long-term expansion; producers, actors and directors who understand their craft and finally a lavish financial endowment which gives good grounds for expecting cinematic-level television. Apple has sharpened its knives and is ready to attack. The battle of the new TV giants has just begun.
Felix Simon is a journalist and regularly writes for the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, “Die Welt”, the “NZZ”, “Telegraph” and other outlets. He holds a BA in Film- and Media Studies from the Goethe-University Frankfurt and an MSc in Social Science of the Internet from the University of Oxford, where he works as a research assistant and editor at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. He tweets under @_Felix Simon_.