With the launch of its first series, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba’s ‘Planet of the Apps,’ agents and producers are eager to help the tech giant become a major player in original programming: “We’ve got stories to tell,” says the company’s Eddy Cue.
A hit TV show? Apple thinks it has an app for that. The tech giant screened its first original series, Planet of the Apps, for crowds of devotees at its annual developer conference June 6 before dropping the first episode of the unscripted series online. The rollout is meant to kick off a summer of releases for Apple, which plans to unveil its star-studded Carpool Karaoke show Aug. 8. Executives are relying on original video to bolster the 27 million paid users of the 2-year-old Apple Music service.
But is Apple now a TV network? Does it want to be one?
“It’s yet another reason to subscribe to Apple Music,” says Eddy Cue, the senior vp in charge of software and services. As he sees it, Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke fit well into the music-centric slate of programming that Apple has bought up during the past couple of years, including a Taylor Swift tour special and a Clive Davis documentary. “We’ve got a lot of stories to tell,” he explains.
Hollywood agents have been salivating for years at the prospect of helping Apple — the world’s most valuable company with a market cap of $800 billion and a $257 billion cash stockpile — tell those stories. But many still are wondering if these latest releases signal that Apple is finally ready to join other deep-pocketed tech firms in the original programming arms race.
“Everyone is asking whether this is just step one,” says BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield. “All it takes to go from one show to hundreds of shows is money.”
For now, at least, Apple is starting small. Although stories abound of producers who take meetings with Jimmy Iovine — who joined Apple as an executive after it acquired Beats Electronics for $3 billion in 2014 — and walk away convinced they will soon have an Apple series to brag about, the company has announced just two shows. Apple has yet to confirm a third project — a dark and edgy drama based on the life of, and starring, Dr. Dre, who also joined Apple as part of the Beats deal — that began filming as far back as February. People who have seen early cuts of the series describe it as ultra-violent and auteurish.
Planet of the Apps — hosted by the DJ Zane Lowe and featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, will.i.am and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk as mentors to developers preparing to pitch Silicon Valley venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners — was originally conceived by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens under their Propagate Content banner, and they brought in will.i.am, who like the other mentors is an executive producer. After an initial meeting between will.i.am and Iovine resulted in a plan to pitch Cue, Silverman remembers asking, “Apple wants it? They don’t do shows.”
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