June 19, 2017:Apple bags Breaking Bad execs for ‘video programming’ roles

Apple bags Breaking Bad execs for ‘video programming’ roles

It’s actually a little unfair to characterise Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg as just ‘Breaking Bad execs’. As presidents at Sony Pictures Television since 2005, the pair have overseen shows including The Crown, The Shield, Rescue Me and The Blacklist.

But now they’ve taken their talents to Apple, in what the company describes as “newly created positions overseeing all aspects of video programming” – reporting in to content boss Eddy Cue.

To borrow the company’s familiar startup-acquisition press statement, Apple hires famous television execs from time to time, and does not generally discuss its purpose or plans.

Cue did say of the two new hires that “we have exciting plans in store for customers and can’t wait for them to bring their expertise to Apple — there is much more to come”. Cue intense press interest in just how far Apple is willing to go head-to-head with Netflix, HBO, Amazon and other current kingpins in the TV/originals world.

Apple’s TV ambitions have been the subject of speculation from some time, from ongoing rumours that the company wants to sell its own “skinny bundle” of premium-TV channels as a cable-TV-busting monthly subscription, to its early efforts in commissioning shows that sit within its Apple Music service.

Unscripted show Planet of the Apps launched this month, albeit to a mixed critical reaction so far. Although as Netflix execs will happily tell you, in the world of on-demand streaming video, critical reaction pales in importance if you can use your customer data to put shows in front of the viewers you know will enjoy them.

Why is a pair of TV hires for Apple a lead story in Music Ally? We’re thinking ahead to where this is leading, and what it means for the company’s music-streaming business. Look ahead to a time when Apple has a slate of big-budget, original shows comparable (in quality if not in quantity) with Netflix and Amazon.

Do those shows still sit within an Apple Music subscription; do they spin off as a direct Netflix-a-like video subscription; or does Apple launch a unified ‘entertainment’ subscription covering video, music and perhaps even e-books and apps?

Are Amazon and Google/YouTube swimming in that direction too? And if so, what will all this mean in the competitive marketplace for pureplays, from Spotify in the music-streaming sector to Netflix itself in video?

We’ve floated the idea in the past of these kinds of companies forming close partnerships (if not full mergers) in order to stay as competitive as possible with big-tech rivals. Perhaps Apple’s latest hires will stimulate more exploration behind closed doors of the economics around these kinds of partnerships…

Stuart Dredge
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