It has not been a secret that getting Apple TV+ up and running hasn’t been the easiest thing Apple has ever done. A new report from Bloomberg highlights the various struggles Apple saw in in its path to launching its upcoming streaming service, Apple TV+.
Much of what is covered in the piece is information that has already been made available in recent weeks and months, but a refresher never hurts. There are also some nuggets of new information in here, too. Including the fact that Apple upset some of its A-list stars because they weren’t involved when Apple TV+ was initially unveiled. Apple TV+ execs Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht were left to pick up the pieces.
After the presentation, agents and managers began peppering Van Amburg and Erlicht, who run the company’s TV efforts, with complaints. Only a handful of the celebrities who’d flown to the Bay Area for the event had been asked to appear; other big names who’d come, including Jennifer Garner and Chris Evans, hadn’t even been mentioned. The general feeling among the Hollywood types, according to several executives who attended, was one of resentment and confusion.
Van Amburg and Erlicht hadn’t said how much the service would cost. Nor had they shown much footage from any of the new shows. They hadn’t mentioned whether Apple TV+ would include reruns of other popular shows, in addition to original series. Why, the Hollywood delegation wondered, would anybody pay for a service that had so few programs?
Apple spent billions of dollars to help get Apple TV+ off the ground, offering almost unlimited budgets to a number of its shows’ stars. Bloomberg notes that Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon of “The Morning Show” are each making more than $1 million USD per episode:
Van Amburg and Erlicht met with Aniston and Witherspoon, who were pitching a new idea for a drama. Although they were meeting with a half-dozen networks, including HBO, Showtime, and Netflix, Apple had something unique to offer: an almost unlimited bankroll.
Van Amburg and Erlicht promised to make two seasons of Aniston and Witherspoon’s show without shooting a pilot episode first, and they offered more than $250 million, including more than $1 million per episode for each actress, according to people familiar with the terms. This was unprecedented. At the time, the biggest TV stars earned about $500,000 each per episode. “Reese and I are so proud to be part of this exciting launch with Apple,” Aniston said at the March event.
One of the more interesting bits in the profile deals with one of the ways that Apple was planning to jumpstart its Apple TV+ initiative. The Cupertino company basically tried to buy its way into Hollywood to get Apple TV+ to the masses, explains the report, with the company aiming to buy production companies like Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s production company Imagine Entertainment:
Cue pursued Imagine Entertainment, the production company led by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. The two producers, whose work includes A Beautiful Mind, Friday Night Lights, and Empire, flew to Cupertino to present Cue with a term sheet.
Tim, a Happy Days fan, made a surprise appearance to see Howard, who played Richie Cunningham on the 1970s sitcom. But Grazer and Howard eventually bailed after deciding they didn’t want to be employees of a large company, according to people familiar with the negotiation.
That potential deal falling apart is what led Apple to hire former Sony executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht in 2017. And of course, those new hires basically helped pave the way to Apple’s current trajectory with Apple TV+.
The full profile at Bloomberg (paywalled) is worth a read, especially if you want to keep up-to-date on all the details regarding the upcoming launch of Apple TV+.