Apple is joining the likes of Netflix and Amazon and making its own TV shows and movies for distribution via iTunes and on the Apple TV, iPhone and iPad, and you can already stream some Apple's shows now, as long as you subscribe to Apple Music for £9.99 a month.
One of the most recent in a series of hires is the ex controller of BBC One & chief creative officer of Channel 4. Jay Hunt is expected to commission programmes on behalf of Apple for Europe and the UK market. Read more about Apple's team of execs working on the streaming project here.
Apple has also signed up Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon to star in a new drama, more information below.
The company is also reported to be planning to offer movies two to three weeks after cinema release, in a move that could threaten cinema chains, find out more below.
Apple's team of TV and film execs
Apple is said to be building a team that will be based in Los Angeles. The team will be lead by two ex-Sony Pictures execs Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who have shows such as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul under their belt, have worked at Sony for 15 years (Amburg) and 20 years (Erlicht).
Erlicht said: "It will be an honor to be part of the Apple team. We want to bring to video what Apple has been so successful with in their other services and consumer products — unparalleled quality.”
Van Amburg added: “Apple has a relentless focus on delighting customers with their products. We will bring that same intention to Apple’s programming and we could not be more excited about what lies ahead,” according to a report on Deadline Hollywood.
In September, in Erlicht and Van Amburg's Apple’s TV content team was joined by Matt Cherniss, president of US TV broadcasting company WGN. He was behind shows such as Manhattan and Salem and has previously worked for Sony, Warner Bros. Pictures and Fox.
And in late October Apple added the former controller of BBC One and chief creative officer of Channel 4 to its team of creatives working on video content.
Jay Hunt was behind shows like Sherlock, Luther, and then helped Channel 4 buy the Great British Bake Off. In her new role at Apple she will be creative director Europe, worldwide video. It is thought that she will be commissioning programming on behalf of Apple.
Apple's TV content
Apple is said to have invested $1 billions buying and producing its own video content in a bid to compete with Netflix and Amazon, according to reports.
The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg claim that the investment could translate to 10 new shows.
Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine confirmed that Apple had plans to offer original video content via its Apple Music service back in January 2017. Speaking at a Television Critics Association event, Irvine said that Apple is working towards creating "an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video," via the Apple Music service.
Don’t expect to see anything like Game of Thrones coming from Apple’s studios though. Apparently the company isn’t looking for sex or violence. According to Bloomberg: "Apple wants comedies and emotional dramas with broad appeal, such as the NBC hit ‘This Is Us,’ and family shows like ‘Amazing Stories.’"
Top executives don’t want kids "catching a stray nipple," the report claims.
Apple has launched two shows so far, Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps, and you can find out more about them below. Those shows are currently distributed via the £9.99 a month Apple Music subscription service, but it is likely a new service would be launched to host the new movie and TV content, perhaps Apple Movies.
We have details of two of the new shows that Apple is working on:
Top of the Morning
Apple has bought a new drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
The company beat others in a bidding war for the two-season show, based on the book Top of the Morning.
Aniston and Witherspoon are co-owners and executive producers along with Michael Ellenberg's Media Res company, which will produce the show. The series will be written and executive produced by Jay Carson (who was behind House of Cards).
Ellenberg’s book looked at the lives of morning TV presenters.
Apple has also bought Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories, which is being executive produced by Spielberg in partnership with Bryan Fuller.
Apparently that drama will transport the audience to worlds of wonder through the lens of today's most imaginative filmmakers, directors and writers.
As yet we aren't aware of any movies in the works at Apple. However, movie studios are said to be working with Apple on plans to release movies for rental just two or three weeks after cinema release, according to a Bloomberg report.
Apparently these PVOD (premium video on demand) rentals would be available to download months before they hit services like Netflix and Now TV, but they would have a higher price than Apple’s usual rental deals. According to the Bloomberg report, if rented from iTunes the movies could cost between $30-$50, while the average price of a cinema ticket is $8.84. ($30 is about £24).
It’s normal for digital rentals of movies to be available around three months after cinema release.
This move could be a threat to cinema chains, although the high price of the iTunes rentals is likely to put most customers off - although the price of taking a family of four to the cinema might turn out to be higher than the rental price of the movie.
4K titles are already available to watch on the 4K Apple TV and these new titles are available at the same price as HD titles are currently. In fact, announcing the 4K content at the September iPhone X launch event, Apple confirmed that if you have already purchased a HD title you will be able to automatically get the 4K version.
Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will both support 4K on Apple TV.
Older Apple TVs will not be able to play the 4K content.
How will Apple deliver the content?
This isn't clear, yet. But there are a few possibilties:
Merging Apple Music and the iTunes Store
Apple may expand the remit of Apple Music to include TV and movies, as was the case when iTunes expanded to include TV and movies back in 2005. Back then Apple introduced iTunes 6 and added support for purchasing and viewing video content from the iTunes Music Store.
Initially the iTunes Music Store offered Music Videos and a small selection of TV shows, including Lost and Desperate Housewives. Since then, the collection has expanded to include content from numerous television networks and movies.
Eventually the iTunes Music Store dropped the word music, as it's focus was much more...
However, the main complaint many have with the iTunes Store as it stands is that content can either be bought or rented, you can't sign up for a all-you-can-eat style subscription service such as Netflix offers.
Apple TV app
To date the Apple TV app is the closest Apple has come to offering customers all the shows and movies they might want to watch in one place. It pulls the information about all the content from all the different content apps you might have on the Apple TV into one place so that you can make a choice about what you want to watch without having to go into all the different apps.
The TV app supports over 60 services on Apple TV and iOS devices, according to Apple. And more are being added.
The Apple TV app will be available in the UK by the end of 2017.
On a subscription basis?
Apple currently has an extensive library of movie and TV shows available via iTunes. Rather than being available on a subscription basis, as with Netflix and Amazon, you can only choose to rent of buy movies, or buy individual episodes or series passes for TV content.
Since Netflix took off there have been calls for Apple to offer content via a subscription service, but as yet it hasn't done so.
Apple's willingness to offer shows to Apple Music subscribers, and it's hires in the TV and movie production field, does seem to indicate that this is something it plans to do, but it isn't clear whether it will only offer it's own content via subscription, or if it will offer all the content available on iTunes. People want the latter, but Apple will need necessary deals with the content providers in place before it can do so.
One thing is clear, Apple is unlikely to offer an commercial-based model in order to cut the subscription cost to consumers. Speaking at Recode in February 2017, Apple's Eddy Cue said of such models: "I'm not saying we'll never do it.. I don't think it's the direction we should be going. I don't think that's what our customers are asking for."
What shows has Apple already made?
The Wall Street Journal reported in January 2017 that Apple has been talking to producers about creating premium programming and movies. So far we know only of the following programmes that have been made for Apple's streaming service:
A popular spot on CBS's The Late Late Show, 16 episodes of Carpool Karaoke will be available to stream via Apple Music - though not all will star original host James Corden, and the majority will instead feature a variety of celebrity pairings.
The show was set to start streaming in April, but eventually premiered in August 2017. You will need a Apple Music subscription in order to watch the episodes.
Apple is showing a pair of ads for upcoming episodes, one of which will feature Queen Latifah, and the other featuring Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus, plus the rest of their family. This time the presenter is Jada Pinkett Smith rather than creator James Corden.
Here’s the ad for the episode featuring the Cyrus family.
Previous episodes have included Ariana Grande and Seth MacFarlane…
…and "Game of Thrones" co-stars Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner.
If you have signed up for Apple Music, or if you sign up for the free three month trial, you can watch the first episode here.
Planet of the Apps
Hosted by Will.i.am this is a sort of Dragon's Den for App developers. It features celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba mentoring app developers. App developers have the length of a escalator ride to pitch their apps.
Apple posted this trailer:
Planet of the Apps is available on Apple Music - you can watch it here.
Backed by Apple, Dr Dre's semi-autobiographical six-part series was rumoured to be in production in February 2016. However, little has been revealed about this show since those reports appeared regarding it.
Will Apple's shows only be about music and apps?
Apparently Apple doesn't intend to limit content. The programmes won't be limited to music or app themes, according to Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine. "If South Park walks into my office, I am not going to say you're not musicians, you know?" he said, as reported by the Hollywood Reporter.
How can I watch Apple's TV shows?
The shows that are currently live are available for Apple Music subscribers for £9.99 a month. You can also sign up for a free trial for three months here.
As of February 2017 there were 20 million paid subscribers to the Apple Music service. Subscribers are able to stream the shows on their Apple devices including the newest Apple TV model, the iPhone and iPad, and the Mac.
When will I be able to watch Apple's TV shows in the UK?
iTunes tends to be region specific so it is possible that there may be a delay in content being available in the UK, and some content may never be made available in the UK. However in terms of the Apple Music shows those programmes were be available in the UK at the same time as they went live in the US, so that may be the case with at least some of the content available on Apple's Movie & TV streaming service.
Podcast: Apple's TV plans
The UK Tech Weekly Podcast team discuss Apple TV-streaming plans in episode 52, starting at 24 minutes.
Background to Apple's Movie & TV streaming service plans
There have been rumours for years that Apple planned to work with the networks to distribute content via its own streaming service. Here is a run down of the various rumours that have emerged, as well as some of the hurdles Apple is said to have encountered along the way.
Why has it taken Apple so long to offer a streaming service?
Back in 2015 Apple was said to be negotiating deals with networks. At the time, ESPN's boss John Skipper confirmed that he was working on a deal with Apple for its rumoured streaming service, but revealed that Apple was having more trouble convincing other networks to join in.
However, it appears Apple hit a bit of a brick wall with the negotiations because by August 2015 talks with CBS, Fox, and NBC were said to have stalled. And then, in December 2015 it was claimed that Apple was putting its plans for the streaming service on hold because the cable companies and networks were proving too resistant to the idea.
By February 2016 CBS CEO Les Moonves had confirmed that talks with Apple had stopped following months of conversations with content providers: "We had conversations awhile back, and we haven't had recent conversations with them," Moonves said.
Why did Apple fail to come to an agreement in these negotiations? One report claimed that Apple was looking to collect a 30% fee from all subscriptions and the network operators weren't happy about this.
Having failed to negotiate content deals will Apple instead seek to acquire companies that have content available for distribution? There are claims that the company could buy Disney, for example, more on that below.
For now the company seems to be distancing itself from the idea. Speaking at Recode, Apple's Eddy Cue said that Apple isn't "trying to buy a bunch of shows," indicating that Apple isn't planning to make any content acquisitions, and back in June 2016 Apple's Eddy Cue said that Apple wasn't interested in becoming a Netflix competitor.
Is Apple going to launch a television?
The short answer: no. Rumours that Apple would launch a TV were circulating for some time, spurred by the fact that Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs seemed to hint in his biography that he intended to reinvent television. This spurred a long running rumour that Apple would launch an actual television set.
Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson: "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use… It will have the simplest use interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Apple CEO Tim Cook seemed to share Jobs' TV dreams. Over the years he has suggested both that the TV experience needed to be bought up to date, and that Apple might revolutionise television. He stated back in September 2014: "Think how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that have changed, and yet TV, when you go into the living room to watch TV or wherever it may be, it almost feels like you're rewinding the clock and you've entered a time capsule and you're going backwards. The interface is terrible, I mean it's awful. You watch things when they come on unless you remember to record them."
Analyst Gene Munster was probably the most vocal in his predictions that Apple would launch an actual TV, he may even have been correct, as there were reports that Apple did have a team working on an actual TV, but it appears that the company eventually ditched the idea.
Instead of launching an actual television, the company launched Apple's tvOS and the re-imagined Apple TV in 2016, both of which could be seen as the culmination of Steve Jobs vision for TV. However, those who were hoping for the reinvention of television, with a fancy TV set and a Netflix-style streaming service were disappointed.
Read our review of the 2015 Apple TV here.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and senior vice president Eddy Cue have been talking with TV and film producers in Hollywood.
The New York Post source told the paper that Apple "Is looking for a transformative acquisition and not just a deal to buy TV shows".
The Apple execs have met with execs Paramount Pictures and with Sony TV and film.
The outcome of discussion with Sony execs might be the eventual hiring of Sony execs Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who have shows such as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul under their belt. These ex-Sony Pictures execs will help Apple with its programming plans.
Could Apple buy Disney?
Apple could probably buy a whole country if it wanted to, it has so much money in the bank. As to whether it might buy Disney, there are reasons to think that such a deal wouldn't be completely surprising: to do so would bring content, excellent co-branding potential, and a 30% share of Hulu.
There is also the fact that Steve Jobs was Disney's biggest shareholder following his sale of Pixar to the company, and the fact that Disney CEO Bob Iger sits on Apple's board.
With all that in mind, it's hardly surprising that the rumour has been circulating. However it would make Apple a conglomerate and we don't think that becoming such a diverse organisation would fit with Apple's DNA.
Could Apple buy Netflix?
Another rumour doing the rounds is that Apple could buy Netflix. However, Apple's Eddy Cue has quashed that rumour by saying that Apple isn't looking to buy a content company: "We might be better buying somebody or doing that, but that's not what we're trying to do," Cue said at the Recode conference in February 2017.
Could Apple buy HBO? Time Warner?
There was a rumour that Apple was considering buying HBO, the home of Game of Thrones as part of an acquisition deal with Time Warner.
Back in early 2016 a New York Post report even claimed that Apple might even buy Time Warner, Inc. That purchase would include HBO, CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network. However, no such deal emerged.