The Cupertino-based tech giant began sounding out Hollywood's creative community late last year, but has yet to sign any agreements, according to two people with knowledge of the overtures. One plan is to have deals in place so Apple can announce exclusive content as part of a cable-like offering in September, when it is expected to unveil its iPhone 7, said one of the people.
Original programming has proven very beneficial to companies like Netflix and Amazon. "Since the beginning of television, content differentiation has been the single most important element driving the business," said Blair Westlake, former chairman of Universal TV and a one-time top Microsoft executive. "Apple undoubtedly recognized that offering programming that is only available on iTunes is a 'must have,' just as it is for mainstream TV."
Apple's conversations with Hollywood are being led by SVP Eddy Cue and include Robert Kondrk, VP of iTunes content. Notably, Variety said the same thing back in September. It's been reported that Apple made an unprecedented bid to secure the stars of "Top Gear" when they left their BBC series earlier in the year. However, Amazon won the bidding war for Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond in July.
Apple is also said to have pursued former ESPN star Bill Simmons to produce an exclusive podcast; however, Simmons signed a major deal with HBO that includes a podcast.
Many hoped Apple would launch a 'skinny' bundle of programming from existing content partners alongside the new Apple TV; however, it's been having difficulties negotiating deals for such a service. Recent rumors suggest the company could purchase Time Warner's assets to make it happen.
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