Apple appears to be strengthening its push into producing original content, with the Financial Times reporting that the company is looking to an iconic Hollywood studio as the base for its original content division and bidding against companies such as Netflix on rights to a new high-profile drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
According to the Financial Times report, Apple is currently in discussions to move its original content division, now headed by former top Sony executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, to The Culver Studios — a location that has been central to Hollywood productions for almost a century. According to people familiar with the discussions, the move to The Culver Studios would provide Apple with room to expand as it hires more Hollywood talent, with 13 soundstages of up to 32,000 square feet in size. However, sources suggest that at this point Apple is mostly looking for office space, but wants an iconic location that makes its Hollywood ambitions clear and could provide the company with some solid cachet in the movie industry.
Although there have been rumours around Apple’s original content strategy for the past two years, the company has generally been seen as rudderless in its approach, leaving Hollywood confused with multiple executives vying for their own deals and approaching content strategies from different directions; some executives have talked about Apple looking to expand Apple Music while others have noted that Apple’s strategy has nothing to do with what Netflix is doing. Apple CEO Tim Cook noted during the company’s Q1 2017 earnings call that Apple had only “put its toe in the water” in terms of original content, and has been learning a lot about the business and thinking about ways th company can play in that area.
However, a new report in May that Apple was specifically looking for somebody to head up the company’s video strategy suggested the potential for a more serious and focused push into original content, and the subsequent hiring of Erlicht and Van Amburg from Sony Pictures Television, followed by more top-tier hires and a $1 billion commitment to video content suggests that Apple is finally getting serious about becoming a contender with Amazon, Google, and Netflix in this area.