Apple is dipping its toes in the treacherous waters of television. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the company is bankrolling a new series starring hip hop star and Apple’s Beats co-founder Dr. Dre. The show is already filming in Los Angeles.
Here are the details, from Hollywood Reporter:
- Dr. Dre is starring in and executive-producing the six-episode series, called Vital Signs. Apple is financing it.
- The show is told in six 30-minute episodes, each one “focusing on a different emotion” that Dre is dealing with.
- It will probably be distributed on Apple Music, the company’s streaming music service. It’s unknown if it’ll also be available on iTunes or on other Apple platforms, like Apple TV.
- No matter where it’s distributed, the entire season will be released at once.
- There is an orgy scene.
Rumors of Apple producing original Hollywood content have been swirling over the last year. While some describe its interest in the medium as only a “flirtation,” the company has reportedly held talks with industry executives about plans to make original content.
Until now, Apple’s role in Hollywood has been exclusively focused on technology—licensing outside content to sell in the iTunes store, and making devices, like Apple TV, for people to watch that content on. This would be the first time the company made a show of its own.
And, why shouldn’t it? From Netflix to Hulu to PlayStation to Amazon, all sorts of companies have begun producing their own shows. Original content is the ultimate form of marketing—it attracts advertisers, reels in new users, and can even win awards. But it’s very costly, and success is highly uncertain, leading some companies to conclude it’s not worth the hassle. Apple, of course, can afford to do virtually anything, but has so far been hesitant to enter the original content game.
That may be because its focus is elsewhere: developing its own internet TV service, similar to Dish Network’s Sling TV.
CBS CEO Les Moonves confirmed last year that Apple was working on such a service, and that CBS was in negotiations with Apple’s content head, Eddy Cue, to be a part of its channel package. But making those types of deals with TV networks has proven to be exceedingly difficult.
Some networks fear that linking up with an internet service like Apple’s would jeopardize lucrative licensing deals they have with traditional cable TV companies (namely Comcast and Time Warner Cable). Not to mention, some of these networks would rather go direct-to-consumer themselves, instead of dealing with an intermediary like Apple.
That’s probably why Apple’s plans for an internet TV service appear to have fallen apart, for now. Moonves said last week that talks with Apple have ceased.
Perhaps Apple’s attention has now turned back to making its own content. A six-episode series starring Dr. Dre—who’s already in the Apple family—seems like a safe way to experiment. But to become a serious producer of original content, Apple will have to make one of its trademark bold moves.