Why 2017 Was the Year Apple Revealed Its True Ambitions in Hollywood

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Will 2018 be the year that Apple stakes its claim against Netflix in the battle for streaming supremacy?

In 2017, the tech giant made no secret of its ambitions to carve out its own piece of the rapidly growing (and increasingly crowded) streaming entertainment market.Apple already sells the products that hundreds of millions of people use to watch streaming movies and TV shows, so it stands to reason that the massive company would also try its hand at producing some of the content it sells through the iOS store and streams on mobile devices and Apple TVs.

To that end, Apple has been on a hiring spree of longtime Hollywood executives and the company is already spending big money to snag the rights to planned original scripted series as the iPhone-maker searches for potential breakout TV hits to announce its entry into the streaming market with authority.

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While Apple has not officially announced start dates for any scripted series, it seems safe to assume that the company’s deep war chest of cash will allow it to continue stockpiling high-profile TV rights in the coming year. In the meantime, here’s a handy reminder of the moves Apple has made so far as the company plots its nascent rivalry with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, and even legacy Hollywood studios.

How much is Apple spending on streaming content?

Apple will reportedly spend about $1 billion on original programming in the next year. That may not sound like a lot, considering that Apple has well over $260 billion in cash on hand, but it’s certainly enough to let the world know that Apple is serious about developing viable original TV and (eventually) movies. By way of comparison, Netflix plans to spend as much as $8 billion on its own slate of original series and films in the coming year, while Amazon reportedly spent roughly $4.5 billion this past year. For what it’s worth, Apple could reportedly acquire and produce about 10 high-quality TV shows with its budget.

Who is in charge of Apple’s TV unit?

Over the summer, Apple poached the co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television--Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg--to lead its new TV unit. Since then, Apple has also added several more former Sony TV employees to fill out the team, along with the former president of WGN America and Tribune Studios, Matt Cherniss, who is overseeing development in the Apple video unit. More recently, Apple even brought in Morgan Wandell, a former Amazon Studios executive, as well as U.K. TV executive Jay Hunt (BBC, Channel 4).

Landing a Big Fish

This fall, it was first reported that Apple had landed a deal with Steven Spielberg’s TV production company to resurrect the iconic directors 1980s sci-fi and horror anthology TV series Amazing Stories. Details on the reboot are still in short supply, but Apple is reportedly willing to spend more than $5 million per episode for what would likely be a 10-episode season, helmed by showrunner Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods) with Spielberg serving as executive producer. The agreement marked Apple’s first official scripted TV project, following previous forays into original programming that only included experiments with unscripted shows like James Corden's Carpool Karaoke and the reality show Planet of the Apps.

Reese and Jen

After landing Spielberg, Apple turned its attention to a pair of A-list actresses, sealing a deal to produce two seasons of a scripted drama series starring Reese Witherspoon (who will also executive produce) and Jennifer Aniston. The series is reportedly set in the world of morning TV shows. Apple said the show will offer “an inside look at the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning, exploring the unique challenges faced by the women (and men) who carry out this daily televised ritual.”

Battlestar Galactica

This month, Apple made a move on yet another TV project with name recognition, ordering a currently untitled space drama from Ronald D. Moore, the screenwriter and producer behind the 2004 reboot of the classic sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. Moore, who also wrote episodes of the Star Trek TV series The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, will write the new show for Apple, which will reportedly focus on the premise that the Cold War’s space race between the U.S. and other countries never ended, according to Deadline.

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