Apple Wants to Make the Next Westworld

Can the company out-HBO HBO?

Apple Music

Netflix, in case you haven’t heard, is the biggest player in Tinsel Town right now, having sunk some $6 billion into original content production (whether that be television series or films, scripted or reality) in 2016, with expectations of similarly aggressive funding for this year. More than ever before, it would seem that the future of TV lies with the non-traditional sources, ranging from premium cable channels, like HBO, to streaming services, such as Netflix and, increasingly, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Partly in keeping with this growing decades-long trend, and partly a complete surprise out of left field, the Wall Street Journal has just today broke the story that none other than Apple is itching to enter the original content game, looking to purchase the rights to scripted TV series for exclusive broadcast on its Apple Music subscription service (which currently costs $10 a month).

It is a big development – one that has the potential to become even bigger, as Netflix’s initial foray into drama with 2013’s House of Cards has since expanded to make it become the biggest spender in Hollywood – but there are two other items buried within the report that are actually even more interesting. First and foremost is the company’s reasoning for making the leap from distributor to producer – namely, to increase the market penetration of Apple Music and to offset the loses that its iPhones and iPads are increasingly accruing, thanks to the exponentially-more-saturated smart phone market (which is, itself, yet another reason to play Hollywood studio – with more eyeballs in front of the relevant screens, there’s a far bigger audience to consume your media than ever before).

The second point is, by far, the more exciting one: when addressing the kind of shows that it wants to make, Apple specifically listed two recent series that have not only managed to capture the cultural zeitgeist in a commanding way, but which are easily two of the best programs to currently be found anywhere across the television spectrum – Netflix’s Stranger Things and, of course, HBO’s Westworld. (It’s no coincidence, after all, that it’s these two series that have consistently dominated the various awards shows’ nominations for this year.)

Whether or not the company is capable of actually assembling such high-quality programming is, of course, very much an open question, but it seems as if Apple is intent on concentrating on only a handful of properties first, and then possibly expanding from there – not unlike Netflix, which started off its major original series in 2013 with just House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, and Orange Is the New Black, and then adding only one more drama to the list the subsequent year with Marco Polo. And by using Westworld and Stranger Things as the base model, at least it is shooting for the highest possible caliber of writing and directing – and, in the specific case of the former, a conceptual maze that many viewers have found it hard to work their way out of, even well after they’ve physically left.

Do you think it’s possible for Apple to out-HBO HBO? Let us know in the comments below.

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