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Apple TV+ Finally Has HBO’s Former CEO on Board


Jan. 3 2020, Published 6:04 p.m. ET

Former HBO CEO Richard Plepler has entered into a five-year deal with Apple TV+ (AAPL), reported The New York Times yesterday. According to the agreement, Plepler’s company, Eden Productions, will produce exclusive TV series, feature films, and documentaries for Apple TV+.

In November, we discussed how Apple had been in talks with Plepler for a couple of months regarding the deal.

Plepler told The New York Times, “I thought that Apple was the right idea very quickly, just because it was embryonic enough that I thought maybe, you know, I could make a little contribution there.”

According to Deadline, Plepler noted, “Apple is one of the most creative companies in the world, and the perfect home for my new production company and next chapter.”

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Plepler had a long-standing relationship with Apple

Plepler exited HBO in February 2019, after spending nearly 30 years with the company. He left just 10 months after AT&T took over the company. During his tenure at HBO, he focused on original programming. It was during his tenure that HBO delivered successful series like Game of Thrones, Veep, and Big Little Lies.

Deadline added that an executive role didn’t interest Plepler. Instead, he wanted to be a producer for Apple TV+. According to The New York Times, Plepler had a close association with Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior VP of Internet Software and Services. The association dates back to 2015 when Apple and HBO collaborated on HBO Now.

HBO’s “exclusive but limited title” strategy is a match for Apple TV+

The New York Times‘ John Koblin wrote that Apple TV+ reflected the same boutique programming philosophy as HBO. This is in sharp contrast to the “all-things-to-all-viewers strategy” that Netflix adopts. Plepler’s expertise lies in creating exclusive, top-notch shows but in limited numbers.

In our view, the agreement between Plepler and Apple TV+ is likely to be a win-win deal. Apple’s streaming service is in its initial phases and is actively seeking to ramp up its content slate. It began with nine original shows. However, it may now be considering sports streaming and licensing content.

At this point, Plepler’s association with Apple TV+ signifies that the streaming platform is serious about adding quality content. At the same time, his production house gets a fresh yet impactful platform to showcase its creativity.

It’s interesting that the former HBO CEO is now associated with Apple, just ahead of the launch of HBO Max in 2020. So, joining forces with Plepler’s company could be Apple’s way to stave off competition.

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Plepler to boost original programming for Apple TV+

Apple is a company with famously deep pockets. In August 2019, CNBC reported that Apple TV+ would spend $6 billion in original content to take on its competitors. Although its current content budget is smaller than Netflix’s budget, Apple might increase the amount. With Apple at his back, Plepler might experiment with genres and take risks in content to make the programming bolder.

Apple TV+ has received a mixed response from critics. However, the company seems upbeat about its content. The streaming platform’s The Morning Show received a Golden Globe nomination. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dickinson, See, and For All Mankind are also slated for next season.

Apple TV+ needs celebrity power and diverse content genres

By attracting top talent, Apple TV+ is paving the way for deeper connections with Hollywood. According to Axios, attracting hugely popular media personalities is a better bet than acquiring other content companies. Among the influential names that are now a part of Apple TV+ are Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and M. Night Shyamalan.

Netflix is already leading the video streaming space, and Disney+ is emerging as a tough contender. As Apple TV+ is a relative beginner in the entertainment industry, it needs star power to draw and keep an audience.

In terms of its content strategy, it won’t be feasible for Apple TV+ to only offer to original programming. While it should continue to add more original programming to its slate, we believe it should also consider licensed titles.

Netflix (NFLX) and Disney+ (DIS) have a far more expansive library of original content. As a result, it should be an uphill task for Apple TV+ to match the leader at this point. In December, we noted that Apple TV+ is considering sports streaming and adding licensed content.

We’re looking forward to discovering more details about Plepler’s five-year deal and see whether it brings more diversity to Apple TV+’s original programming.


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