New Apple Music Head Named as Service Surpasses 40 Million Subscribers (EXCLUSIVE)

Read on: Variety.

Apple Music is thinking globally as the streaming service officially surpasses 40 million paid subscribers. Today, the company announced the promotion of Oliver Schusser to lead Apple Music Worldwide. His new title is vice president of Apple Music & International Content. Schusser has led efforts outside the U.S. related to the App Store, iTunes’ movies and […]

Apple Music Reaches 38 Million Subscribers — Up 2 Million in Five Weeks

Read on: Variety.

Apple Music has reached 38 million subscribers, a gain of 2 million in just over a month, the company’s SVP Eddy Cue said during a chat with CNN’s Dylan Byers at the South by Southwest Conference on Monday, according to 9to5Mac. The announcement solidifies the company’s ranking as the No. 2 streaming service behind Spotify, which […]

Apple SVP Eddy Cue: Don’t Expect a Netflix Buyout Anytime Soon

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Apple is “all in” on original content and has more cash than several countries — but that doesn’t mean it’s looking to buy Netflix, according to Eddy Cue, senior vice president of software and services.

When asked at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas on Monday if the tech giant would look to buy Netflix or Disney, Cue called them “great partners,” but said a purchase is unlikely.

“Generally the history of Apple — we have not made huge acquisitions,” said Cue, before referencing Wayne Gretzky’s “skate to where the puck is going, not where it is” line.

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That puck is headed towards traditional long-form shows for Apple, rather than short-form content, said Cue. Since earmarking $1 billion for new shows last summer, Apple has been targeting Hollywood A-listers as it prepares its slate of original programming. Led by former Sony execs Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, Apple has inked deals with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle. In contrast to Netflix’s content blitz, with hundreds of shows set to be released this year, Cue said less is more when it comes to Apple.

“We’re completely all in. There’s a difference though; we’re not after quantity, we’re after quality,” said Cue. “We don’t try to sell the most smartphones in the world; we don’t try to sell the most apps, we try to make the best one.”

With more than $280 billion in cash on reserve, Apple has been eyed as a potential suitor for Netflix — which is worth about $140 billion. Cue suggested on Monday that Apple would rather build a studio than buy an established content maker. “Money isn’t an issue,” when it comes to making its own shows, added Cue.

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CNN’s Dylan Byers Asks: Will Apple Buy Netflix Or Disney?

Read on: Deadline.

In an era of mega media mergers, it seemed like a logical question to ask: will Apple buy Disney or Netflix?
CNN’s Dylan Byers posed the multi-billion-dollar question in discussion with Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue at South by Southwest, noting that such a giant acquisition might be within reach for the technology giant whose market cap is flirting with $1 billion.
“The good news is both Netflix and Disney are great partners of ours and have been with us from the…

Eddy Cue Talks Apple’s Acquisition of Texture Magazine App, Why Company Doesn’t Have A “Fake News” Problem

Read on: Deadline.

Apple’s Eddy Cue at SXSW today talked about the company’s just-announced acquisition of Texture, a subscription service that gives readers digital access to some 200 magazines. Cue said Texture represents a logical extension of the Apple News service, providing readers with high-quality news from trusted sources including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time and other notable publications.
“We want the best articles, we want them to look amazing and we want them to be from…

Pollstar Conference Draws Top Talent, Live Music Luminaries and a Little Controversy

Read on: Variety.

When the Oak View Group purchased concert industry trade Pollstar in July 2017, OVG co-founder Irving Azoff promised to bring the annual Pollstar Conference “into the 21st century.” The mega-manager meant business, as the 2018 edition proved. Held from Feb. 6 through 8 at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the confab featured panels, […]

Jimmy Iovine Shoots Down Rumors He’s Leaving Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

Read on: Variety.

Music mogul Jimmy Iovine shot down rumors that he plans to exit Apple in August telling Variety that he’s committed to staying on the team and helping the company get music streaming right. “I am almost 65, have been with Apple for four years and in 2 1/2 years the [Apple Music] service has gotten to well […]

Why Apple’s $1 Billion Investment in New Content Isn’t a Threat to Netflix – for Now

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Apple plans to spend $1 billion on content to develop up to 10 big-budget shows over the next year, music to the ears of creatives in and out of the 30-mile zone who now have another deep-pocketed buyer to pitch to.

It’s a move that could position the computing giant to launch its own subscription streaming service that could challenge Netflix and Amazon — and newer old-media streaming players like CBS and Disney. But for now, the company’s move is really about selling more iPhones and Apple TVs.

Apple’s hope is to turn iTunes into an indispensable source of must-see TV, like Netflix or HBO, which would then incentivize customers to buy its products and sign up for subscription products down the line. Netflix uses “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things” to get more than 100 million people worldwide to shell out $10 a month. And while a pipeline of original programming should help Apple develop more ancillary iTunes revenue down the line, for now, Apple can use their exclusive content to ship $200 Apple TVs and $600 iPhones.

It’s not hard to imagine the sales pitch for the only brand of television that could theoretically show a series with the popularity of a “Game of Thrones.”

Also Read: Apple Set to Drop $1 Billion on Original TV Content

“First and foremost, they’ll use it to sell more products,” Ezra Kucharz, a digital and legacy media adviser and former special adviser to the CEO of CBS, told TheWrap, while noting that he hadn’t spoken to anyone at Apple about its just-announced push into original content.

“You’ll probably get two different strategies in the iTunes Store,” Kucharz said. “There will be a ‘skinny bundle’ and subscription service of sorts where this content will live. There may be multiple channels. But if you want to buy individual episodes, you will be able to.”

Ross Gerber, the president and CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management, said a premium subscription service — maybe a revamped Apple Music — has to be the plan, but questioned why Apple is developing original content instead of using the $77 billion in cash and short-term investments on its balance sheet to acquire or pursue a joint venture with a producer of high-end TV and movies, perhaps even Lionsgate. Apple could then use its rights to those shows and movies to launch its own Netflix-like streaming service, without having to build it from the ground up in a company with a very limited track record in that field.

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Apple’s initial forays into original content, the reality series “Planet of the Apps” and “Carpool Karaoke,” didn’t really do much to indicate what its eventual programming plans might be — and weren’t exactly critical darlings, either.

“The first two shows are horrible,” Gerber said. “Then I watch ‘The Defiant Ones’ on HBO, which is basically a big Apple ad. How in God’s name did Apple not make this?”

But that could be changing.  In June, Apple content chief Eddy Cue brought over Sony Pictures Television Presidents Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to run its video business, tipping its hand that it would be getting into scripted content. Kucharz said other than live sports, that’s the only content of real value anymore.

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“It’s going to be all about scripted shows,” he said. “If you’re in the commoditized and perishable content business, things are going to be tough. You can get the weather a lot of places.”

And while $1 billion is an eye-popping number, it’s a relative pittance to Apple, about half of what Time Warner’s HBO spends on content, and one-sixth of Netflix’ content budget. It could be a sensible bet for Apple that could make it a significant player in original video, while also bolstering sales for the iPhone and iPad (despite their higher price point than other smartphones and tablets). Gerber, however, questioned whether that commitment was big enough to make a real impact in Hollywood, especially with Apple’s prodigious bankroll.

“They’re going to make 10 to 15 shows,” he said. “That gives you a very low likelihood of success in Hollywood. What Netflix does is they spend so much money they’re going to have good shows, because everyone wants to work at Netflix. The bad shows just get swept under the rug.”

Also Read: Former WGN America Boss Matt Cherniss Heads to Apple

Another motivation for Apple to beef up its lean slate of original content: decreasing market share in digital video. In 2012, the company hauled in about 50 percent of all digital video downloads. But with competitors like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu gaining steam in recent years, Apple has seen its slice of the pie cut to between 20 to 35 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This drop has been masked by the overall size of the digital video market rapidly growing over that time period. Even though Apple has a smaller share, it’s still seen its revenue from services (which includes iTunes downloads) take off, jumping 22 percent year-over-year to $7.3 billion in its most recent quarterly report.

If it can pump some of its cash into intriguing content like its own “House of Cards,” Apple can regain some share in a growing market. And it can also add value to Apple TV, which is facing increased competition from Smart TVs and other streaming devices like Amazon’s Fire TV and the Roku Premiere.

Also Read: FX’s John Landgraf Says Apple Won’t Be a Competitor: ‘We Can’t Do What They Do’

“You will see them develop series within iTunes and the Apple TV ecosystem,” Kucharz said. “They tried a couple times to kind of revamp Apple TV and do deals with some of the networks. Ultimately, this may be another way.”

Apple thrives on its ecosystem — the often seamless interconnection between its myriad devices. To fully realize all of the iPhone’s features, for example, it’s better to pair it with a Mac than a PC. And Apple has made it possible for iPhone users to text from a MacBook and make phone calls from an iPad — and recently, bounce between devices when renting videos through iTunes. Adding a substantial suite of high-end original content would be a further draw to an already compelling package, similar to Amazon making originals like “Transparent” available to its Prime subscribers.

That could become another funnel back to Apple’s ecosystem, keeping current users engaged and attracting new ones — assuming Cue, Erlicht and Van Amburg can develop compelling enough content.

Also Read: Apple Hires Sony Pictures TV Chiefs Jamie Erlicht, Zack Van Amburg to Oversee Video Programming

Gerber, however, thinks real subscription revenue needs to arrive sooner than later, and wondered why a company that clearly wants to get in showbiz wouldn’t just buy its way to a bigger stage.

“I have a lot of Apple stock,” he said. “What will Apple be in five years? If it’s going to be a phone company, they’re dead. It’s got to be another company. AT&T, the smartest move they could have done was buy Time Warner. How many people need to buy people until Apple buys someone?”

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”Star Wars’ Isn’t A Movie, It’s a Religion,’ JJ Abrams Says

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Writer-producer-directors JJ Abrams and Jon Favreau have been in charge of some of Hollywood’s iconic franchises, from “Star Wars” to “Iron Man” to “The Jungle Book.” And the key to doing right by those storied names — and their rabid fans: attention to detail.

In a dinner conversation with Apple senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue at the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Favreau and Abrams talked about what goes into that stewardship — and the sometimes unreasonable expectations that come with it.

“‘Star Wars’ isn’t a movie, it’s a religion,” Abrams said. “But this religion people have — they don’t always know how fungible these things are.”

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Abrams told a story about Harrison Ford sitting in the Millennium Falcon while filming “The Force Awakens” and immediately noticing that two yokes on the dashboard weren’t there on the original “Star Wars” spaceship. Abrams said that was because the first movie was made on such a low budget, they couldn’t afford actual yokes with springs that stayed put — which the “Force Awakens” production budget could now accommodate. So the lack of authenticity was actually an improvement.

Abrams, the director of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the third movie ever to gross $2 billion worldwide, and executive producer of HBO hit “Westworld,” also said, not entirely surprisingly, that the creative process can be hampered by the presence of people overly focused on the bottom line.

“We’ve all been in a meeting with guys in a room with numbers and the result of the film doesn’t feel inspired,” Abrams said.

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In response to Cue introducing Favreau with a nod to one of his characters on “Friends,” the writer, actor and director said he isn’t surprised at being recognized for a role he played decades ago — thanks to a surge in on-demand viewing made possible by the proliferation of streaming services like Netflix.

“Now there’s a new platform with every streaming service,” Favreau, who is directing Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of “The Lion King,” told Cue. “There are people being introduced to works we did a decade ago that we thought were lost to history.”

Favreau touched on the second life so many non-tentpole films and TV shows find as cult classic on video — and now streaming services — mentioning how important the non-theatrical audience was to “Swingers,” the 1996 film that put him on the map.

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“We opened to great per-screen numbers, but when we tried to widen out, it just nosedived,” Favreau said. “It was really on video where it found its audience. It was a harbinger of things to come.”

One person the film clearly made an impression on was Abrams.

“That movie’s one of the great indies ever,” he said. “‘Swingers’ is incredible.”

Also Read: Disney’s Live-Action ‘The Lion King’ Gets Summer 2019 Release Date

Favreau also talked about his film “Chef,” the idea of which he said came to him out of a love of cooking shows — and came with some side benefits.

“[It] was a great excuse to go to the best chefs in the world and learn about cooking,” Favreau said. “I don’t know what it is about being 50, but I want to learn everything. In college, I didn’t want to learn anything.”

And with Hollywood writers potentially striking as soon as midnight tonight, Abrams shared a relevant anecdote from his earliest days in Hollywood. He entered the industry as a screenwriter right after his senior year of college, when he wrote a treatment with Jill Mazursky that would eventually be the basis of “Taking Care of Business.” But in 1988, he was just a guy with a new job facing down a strike.

“I got to be a working writer and was immediately on the picket line,” Abrams said.

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Apple Music Unveils Its First TV Series, Reveals Spring Launch Plans

Read on: Variety.

Apple offered the first glimpse of the future of series-TV programming on Apple Music at the Recode Media conference, where trailers for its first two series unspooled along with perhaps the most in-depth commentary the man introducing them, content czar Eddy Cue, has yet to share about his employer’s plans in the entertainment business. Cue… Read more »

Apple Has No Interest in Buying a Studio, Content Chief Eddy Cue Says

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

At long last, Apple has decided to enter the original content game with a “Shark Tank”-style reality show, “Planet of the Apps,” which will stream on its Apple Music service. But that doesn’t mean it’s preparing to splash its more than $20 billion in cash on a studio.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services, told Recode’s Peter Kafka at the Code Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California, that the tech behemoth isn’t interested in acquiring an existing studio or production company, because it doesn’t want to create the same type of programming they already produce for other outlets.

“For us, we’re trying to do things that are unique and cultural,” Cue said. “We think we have a real opportunity in the TV space to do that with Apple Music and shows. The things we’re trying to do aren’t done by anybody else.”

Also Read: Apple Plans to Launch Original TV Shows

Former NBCUniversal Chairman Ben Silverman’s Propagate Content developed “Planet of the Apps,” where developers look to convince four influential judges that their mobile app is worth investing in. Developers then work with the judges to pitch their apps to a venture capital firm, and winners earn featured placement in Apple’s App Store. While it seems tailor-made to be the first Apple Music original, that wasn’t how Silverman initially saw it.

“We took this out to pitch the traditional players and we were really focused on broadcast,” Silverman said.

But Silverman eventually realized Apple would have to be a part of it, and word of the show came to Apple Music when co-creator had a separate meeting at the tech giant’s headquarters and started talking about other projects he was working on. Silverman said after Apple showed interest, he slowed the process with the interested broadcast parties, and ended up finding a home for it on Apple Music.

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Silverman, who executive produced massive broadcast hits like “The Office” and “The Biggest Loser,” said he didn’t feel like he was missing anything by taking this one to a less-established medium.

“With Apple, the potential audience is as many screens as exist,” Silverman said.

Silverman denied that he’s sacrificing reach (although broadcast still pulls in millions of viewers and good luck finding anything resembling streaming ratings) because of Apple Music’s potential audience: anyone with a device. Plus, it’s borderless.

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“This will be available in most countries in the world,” Cue said, adding later on that the show isn’t limited to U.S. developers, so it could have a second life internationally (like so many other reality shows, from “Dancing with the Stars” to “MasterChef).

But the content chief said despite the company’s nearly unparalleled resources, it’s not going to do the type of volume shopping companies like Amazon and Netflix are known for.

“We’re not out to buy a bunch of shows,” Cue said. “We’re out to be creative, move culture and do something Apple is adding value to.”

Also Read: Apple CEO Tim Cook’s 2016 Pay Drops Almost 15 Percent

Apple Music’s video originals will be ad-free for now, and Cue didn’t imply it would be any different for the long term. He said advertisers will have to be innovative, but a three-minute interruption in the middle of a show is not the way of the future.

He’s also not a huge fan of “skinny bundles” — “given how great the content is, people should be watching more of it and willing to pay more” — and said technology can help improve TV’s flawed user experience, which isn’t an altogether surprising view from an Apple exec.

“I’ve got like 900 channels and nothing to watch,” Cue said. “Those are all problems technology can solve directly.”

Also Read: Amazon Prime Video Doubled Hours Watched Last Year

However, Cue didn’t have much relief for those fans of Amazon shows who want to know when they can watch them through an Amazon app on Apple TV.

“I hope they will join sometime soon,” he said.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook’s 2016 Pay Slips Almost 15 Percent

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s 2016 executive compensation dropped 14.9 percent, despite a $1 million salary increase.

The top dog made exactly $8,747,719 last year, according to a proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That was down from $10,281,327 in 2015.

Cook’s actual salary was up from $2 million to $3 million over the most-recent 12 months. Where his all-in earnings suffered was non-equity incentive compensation, which decreased year over year from a flat $8 million to $5.37 million. That’s a decrease of nearly one-third.

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Cook actually clocked in with some extra dough sitting in the catch-all “All Other Compensation” category. He pulled up almost an extra hundred grand there versus 2015, with $377,719 to last year’s $281,327.

Apple’s other top execs — CFO Luca Maestri, and SVP’s Angela Ahrendts, Eddy Cue, Dan Riccio and Bruce Sewell — all made much more than their boss once-again, thanks to generous stock awards. Each of those respective divisional leaders made a bit under $23 million last year.

Yeah, it’s still good to have Apple stock.

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