How serious is Apple about original video? It just hired the TV execs behind “Breaking Bad”

Hopefully they’ll come up with something better than “Planet of the Apps.”
Hopefully they’ll come up with something better than “Planet of the Apps.”
Image: Apple/YouTube screenshot
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Apple tapped two veterans of prestige TV to lead its own venture into original video.

The tech company, which began dabbling in original programming last year, said it hired Sony Pictures Television co-presidents Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to head up video development. The Hollywood executives, who developed some of the best-known and highest-quality shows on TV including Breaking Bad, Shark Tank, Better Call Saul, and The Crown, will oversee Apple’s video programming worldwide in their newly created positions. They’ll report to Apple content boss Eddy Cue.

As when Apple hired record-label executive Jimmy Iovine to spearhead its music division, the move suggests that Apple is finally taking video programming seriously.

Its experiments in the space, so far, have left a lot to be desired. Apple launched a Shark Tank-style reality series in February called Planet of the Apps that got mixed reviews. And its Carpool Karaoke series, based on CBS’s The Late Late Show host James Corden’s popular offshoot of the same name, has been delayed since April.

Both series are being made available through Apple’s subscription service, Apple Music, and the iTunes store, and seem more like ways to prop up Apple’s music business than video ventures in their own right. But with so many players entering the video fray, including Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, there’s too much at stake not to have a real strategy.

Apple has been pursing original scripted fare on par with acclaimed shows like HBO’s Westworld and Netflix’s Stranger Things, which it hopes to be able to offer by the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported (paywall) in January. Erlicht and Vam Amburg could help with that.

Their knowledge of the TV, movie, music, and video-game businesses from Sony, where they were tasked with uniting those entertainment units, also makes them a good fit for Apple. At Sony, the pair worked to bring together artists from each of these entertainment categories, creating soundtracks for TV series like Netflix’s The Get Down, sharing writers and properties across the TV and film studios, and teaming up showrunners with Sony’s PlayStation unit for VR projects, as Variety reported last year.

They’re not the only Hollywood executives being poached by the tech sector. Facebook hired MTV executive Mina Lefevre earlier this year and is recruiting Hollywood producers for its upcoming TV push. And Netflix nabbed alumni from 20th Century FoxUniversal Pictures, and other studios.