After years of will-they-or-won’t-they speculation, Apple is announcing its arrival in the original programming space in a big way with the hire of outgoing Sony Pictures Television presidents Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to oversee all aspects of worldwide video programming for the tech giant. The duo will report to Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services.
Apple, which has one of the biggest worldwide distribution platforms with iTunes and Apple Music, has been actively exploring an entry into original video programming, with Apple bigwigs, including Cue and Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine, meeting with a slew of top TV executives over the past two years. For Van Amburg and Erlicht, this was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up, so they opted to depart Sony TV at the end of their current contracts instead of signing new long-term deals and staying put despite their deep connection to the studio where they had been for 20 years (Van Amburg) and 15 years (Erlicht).
Apple, which revolutionized the way people consume music with the introduction of the iPod and iTunes, has been slow in adopting video. It just launched its first original series, the unscripted Planet of the Apps, on Apple Music, and also has a Dr. Dre drama series which has been filmed but never officially announced.
That process will be accelerated with the arrival of seasoned programming executives like Van Amburg and Erlicht who are expected to ramp up video production. They have experience working with blank canvas — at Sony TV, where they took over the primetime series devision in 2005, they started a cable business for the studio with such series as Rescue Me, Damages and Breaking Bad and also built from scratch a streaming slate.
“Jamie and Zack are two of the most talented TV executives in the world and have been instrumental in making this the golden age of television,” said Cue. “We have exciting plans in store for customers and can’t wait for them to bring their expertise to Apple — there is much more to come.”
At Sony TV, Van Amburg and Erlicht spearheaded a decade of rapid expansion of the original series unit, with the SPT slate of original primetime shows more than tripling.
Some of the TV series currently in production at the studio include network comedies and dramas The Blacklist, Timeless and The Night Shift for NBC; as well as The Goldbergs, Shark Tank, The Good Doctor and $100,000 Pyramid for ABC and Kevin Can Wait and S.W.A.T. for CBS. The studio also produces a roster of primetime cable series including Preacher and Better Call Saul for AMC, and Outlander for Starz. SPT’s portfolio for digital shows includes The Crown, Bloodline, Atypical and One Day at a Time for Netflix, Sneaky Pete, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, The Dangerous Book for Boys, The Tick and The Last Tycoon for Amazon, and Shut Eye and Future Man for Hulu.
“It will be an honor to be part of the Apple team,” said Erlicht. “We want to bring to video what Apple has been so successful with in their other services and consumer products — unparalleled quality.”
Added Van Amburg, “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.”