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Apple says it doesn't "know anything" about making TV, will spend over $1 billion on original programming anyway

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Over the last year or so, Apple has attracted some top-notch talent to its growing programming branch. Reese Witherspoon is producing multiple shows, including a comedy starring Kristen Wiig; Damien Chazelle is developing some mysterious new drama; and Oscar nominees Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon sold their anthology series about immigrants to the tech company. Apple even picked up Bryan Fuller and Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories reboot, and then, in what’s becoming a rite of passage for programmers, bid adieu to the Hannibal creator.

Apple’s aggressiveness and selections would seem to bode well for its chances in establishing itself as a major player in original TV content—and its near-unfathomable resources certainly don’t hurt. But, as this New York Times article points out, the tech giant has been kind of winging it up to this point. Apple exec Eddy Cue admitted at SXSW earlier this month that he and his cohort “don’t know anything about making television.” Cue, who’s heading up the programming initiative said the organization can bring “very little” to the content table. But he wasn’t just being overly humble: Cue went on to enumerate Apple’s strengths: “We know how to create apps, we know how to do distribution, we know how to market.”


Basically, Apple had everything but the talent. And because “we don’t really know how to create shows,” according to Cue, they hired former Sony Pictures Television presidents Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht. The duo has hit the ground running, building “Apple Worldwide Video from the ground up, expanding its staff to roughly 40 people and opening divisions for adult dramas, children’s shows and Latin American and European programming.” Van Amburg and Erlitcht have also masterminded the deals with Witherspoon, Spielberg, Jennifer Anniston, Octavia Spencer, and M. Night Shyamalan.

Apple had originally earmarked $1 billion for these programming efforts, which the Times believes the company will “blow well past,” now that so many A-listers have thrown in with the nascent programmer. That’s not quite the $8 billion that Netflix has pledged to developing content in 2018, but it’s only March—Apple has plenty of time to up its spending.

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