November 15, 2019

Apple’s Big Spending Plan to Challenge Netflix Takes Shape

With all that new material, Apple will transform itself, seemingly overnight, from a tech giant into a more general enterprise, with a slate of original entertainment offerings sizable enough to put it in a league with Showtime, Hulu or FX.

Interviews with more than a dozen people who have had dealings with Apple, all of whom said they couldn’t speak publicly about private discussions, suggest that, while the producers and stars appreciate having another deep-pocketed company to pitch, they also have … well, let’s call them concerns.

Those concerns have arisen from the culture clash that may inevitably come about when a tech company that is used to guarding its trade secrets gets involved in show business, which runs on a stream of conversation, much of it of the just-between-us variety.

Players expect to be kept in the loop. But many of the people working with Apple said they have received little or no information on how, exactly, their shows will be released. Or even when they will be released, other than a vague assurance of “later this year, probably fall.” They also don’t have a clear idea of Apple’s marketing plans for the shows. Or what their colleagues in the newly built Apple stable are up to.

Apple’s entertainment team is based in Culver City, Calif., historically a center of moviemaking. It is led by two former Sony television executives, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, under the watch of the senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue. Mr. Cue hired the Sony veterans in 2017, after Apple rolled out its first original series, a reality show called “Planet of the Apps,” which was a dud. About $1 billion was set aside for them to spend on programming, and they have blown well past that amount by now.

While Apple may be a late arrival to the streaming party, its showcase will take place two and a half weeks before Disney is expected to preview elements of its new streaming platform, and many months before Warner Media provides details of its version.

Apple’s entertainment team has not been totally opaque. It has provided feedback to individuals involved in the shows, but it has been tight-lipped about the marketing and rollout plans. The March 25 event may allay Hollywood’s concerns, but several people involved in the new programs have interpreted the lack of communication as a sign that there may not be a clear game plan.

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