Apple is looking to create original entertainment programming to take on competitors including Netflix and to expand its roots into a wider range of income-producing content for consumers.
Apple's exploration of the idea was reported in an Aug. 31 story by Variety, which was based on interviews with anonymous sources. The internal Apple research work into the possible original content efforts is being funneled through Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president for Internet software and services, the story reported.
"The scale of Apple's ambitions vary depending on whom is asked, but one high-level executive who talked with the company said the goal is to create development and production divisions that would churn out long-form content to stream in a bid to compete with Netflix," the story reported. "Apple is hoping to put a headhunting firm on those hires in the coming months, according to source, with the goal of being in operation next year. Unknown is whether the focus is on TV series, movies—or both."
Other anonymous sources said Apple's exploration of possible programming is "more of a flirtation," the story continued. One source said that evidence of such inquiries included reports of Apple's "unprecedented bid to secure the stars of [the TV show] 'Top Gear' when they exited their BBC series earlier this year." Apple lost that battle to Amazon, but the intent of the bid was clear, the source told Variety.
Further details of any such programming efforts are still sketchy, the report continued. "It is unclear, for instance, if the company intends to structure itself like Netflix and work with outside production entities or attempt Microsoft's ill-fated Xbox model, which entailed setting up an internal studio."
Apple has been looking at more entertainment options across the consumer market in recent years. The company launched its Apple Music streaming music service on June 30, including customized playlists cultivated by experts and an online Beats 1 live radio streaming service that features on-air personalities spinning songs and exploring new music with listeners.
In addition, Apple will reportedly be announcing its next-generation Apple TV set-top box at an event on Sept. 9. The upcoming fourth-generation Apple TV set-top box will be priced at $149 or $199 and will be available for purchase in October, according to the latest rumors and reports about the long-awaited device. The upcoming Apple TV set-top box will cost at least twice as much as the existing Apple TV units, which sell for $69 after a price drop from $99 earlier this year, while the existing Apple TV models will stay in production as an entry-level model for users, according to a recent eWEEK report.
The upcoming Apple TV set-top box was originally expected to be announced back in June at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). That didn't happen. Rumors earlier in August said the delay was due to a desire by the company to push its release back so it could be ready to run on Apple's latest iOS 9 operating system.
Apple TV, which hasn't had any major updates since 2013, is expected to get a slimmer chassis, an updated remote and support for Apple's Siri digital personal assistant. The device, introduced in 2007, is expected to receive a wide range of improvements, marking the first major design changes to the product since 2013. The new Apple TV is expected to receive an improved remote that includes touch-pad controls, as well as additional integrated storage, its own App Store and a new software development kit that the company hopes will encourage developers to build new apps for the device.
Meanwhile, Apple's long-rumored live streaming television services are running behind schedule in getting off the ground due to slower than expected negotiations with TV networks for their content. Recent reports say that the live Apple TV streaming services will arrive in 2016, rather than this month. The negotiations that have slowed the process involve the difference in the $40 a month Apple wants to be able to charge customers, compared with the higher prices expected by TV networks for their content.
In March, reports began circulating that Apple has been working to finalize plans to start an Internet-based streaming television service that would include about 25 channels of content that would be viewable on the company's computers, smartphones and Apple TV set-top boxes.
The service would include programming from ABC, CBS, Fox and other networks, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Apple has apparently been talking to Walt Disney Co., CBS, 21st Century Fox and others to assemble less-expensive TV bundles that include channels like CBS, ESPN and FX, while leaving out many of the smaller networks that are included in typical standard cable TV packages.