In the latest development in the accelerating streaming wars, Apple has forged a five-year Apple TV+ production deal with former HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler.
The agreement calls for Plepler’s newly formed, New York-based Eden Productions to produce series, feature films and documentaries for Apple’s streaming service, launched November 1.
Plepler is credited with building HBO into a premium brand with hit series including “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones,” as well as overseeing the development of soon-to-launch HBO Max, during his nearly three decades there.
Plepler exited HBO last February, nine months after AT&T acquired Time Warner and rebranded it as WarnerMedia, and weeks before NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt was named chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, with oversight of HBO and HBO Max, among other areas.
Plepler had been in negoiations with Apple TV+ global video chiefs Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht since at least mid November, according to various reports. The two executives were presidents at Sony Pictures Television prior to joining Apple in 2017.
“I’m excited to work with Zack, Jamie and the standout team at Apple who have been deeply supportive of my vision for Eden from day one,” Plepler said in a statement. “The shows that Zack and Jamie produced [at Sony], “The Crown” and “Breaking Bad,” are among those I most admired. Apple is one of the most creative companies in the world, and the perfect home for my new production company and next chapter.”
The deal is something of a coup for Apple. Apple TV+’s prospects in competing against Netflix, Amazon and powerful new streaming players that will include HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, as well as Disney+, have been questioned by some in part because of its lack of an extensive content library.
Apple TV+’s strategy has focused on creating original content, rather than competing to license popular existing series or movies.
Its high-profile partnerships to date include creation of an in-house studio conjunction with Spielberg-Hanks Production and a content deal with Oprah Winfrey.
The SVOD, priced at $4.99 per month, launched with nine shows, including “The Morning Show,” starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrell, “Dickinson,” and “For All Mankind.”