In the latest sign that the small-screen gold rush is far from over, on Friday Apple hired veteran Sony Pictures TV executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht for newly created positions heading up video programming for the Cupertino-based company.
Staying true to form, the notoriously secretive Apple offered few details about exactly what its new execs would be doing, or exactly how broad the scope of their mission would be.
But Eddy Cue, who runs all of Apple’s content stores, issued a statement that suggests Erlicht and Van Amburg weren’t recruited to come up with (relatively) small-ball fare like Planet of the Apps or even Carpool Karaoke.
“We have exciting plans for customers … there is much more to come,” Cue teased. Translation: The Apple phase of Peak TV has arrived. Maybe.
For years, Hollywood’s small-screen establishment has been wondering if and when Apple would use its considerable weight to disrupt the TV business.
The speculation has been ongoing since 2005, when Apple first negotiated the right to sell TV episodes directly to consumers via iTunes. Hard to believe now, but the idea of letting audiences buy a TV show the day after it aired was once super controversial in TV circles.
When he was running NBC, current CNN chief Jeff Zucker famously fretted that Apple’s advances (and the rise of streaming) could result in the business “trading analog dollars for digital pennies.” It turned out, Apple wasn’t the threat many expected back in the mid-aughts.
Sure, every so often one of the Hollywood or Silicon Valley trades would publish a gossipy piece predicting that Apple was about to introduce a new kind of TV set, or replace cable companies with its own live-TV service, or start making a full slate of original series.
But as Apple pondered … and pondered … the real disrupter ended up being Netflix, which took advantage of Apple’s TV Hamlet act to single-handedly shake up the business and turn digital distribution into the massive force it is today.