Apple is rumored to have entered the running to buy the rights to the James Bond franchise, a property worth between $2 billion and $5 billion, The Hollywood Reporter reports. Major film studios like MGM, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. have been pursuing a deal since the franchise’s deal with Sony expired in 2015, and Apple’s entry into the bidding has ratcheted up the intensity. Apple is also reportedly in discussions to buy or lease iconic Hollywood powerhouse The Culver Studios to house its burgeoning content operation, and industry analysts view the potential for the James Bond franchise as possibly as big as the Marvel and Star Wars brands for TV shows, toys, merchandising and more.
While the 1990s saw the Bond property dabble in video games and cartoons, the franchise has primarily been limited to movies, creating the potential to exploit the property “across all mediums, push out merchandising for all age brackets and have spin-offs and cinematic universes.” Apple could also have a leg up in the negotiations, since Sony was the last studio to own the rights and two of Sony’s biggest names — Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg — recently jumped ship to head up Apple’s content operation. Even if the company misses out on the main franchise deal to a movie house like MGM, there’s still the possibility that the company could cut a secondary deal to develop the expanded universe outside of the main films. “In the world of Lucasfilm and Marvel, Bond feels really underdeveloped,” said someone familiar with the bidding process.