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Apples Billion-Dollar Bet on Hollywood Is the Opposite of Edgy

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Days before Apple Inc. planned to celebrate the release of its first TV show last spring at a Hollywood hotel, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told his deputies the fun had to wait. Foul language and references to vaginal hygiene had to be cut from some episodes of , a show featuring celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Blake Shelton, and Chelsea Handler cracking jokes while driving around Los Angeles.

 

While the delay of was widely reported last April, the reasons never were. Edits were made, additional episodes were shot, and Apple shifted resources to another show. When was released in August, it didn’t make much of a splash. The early stumbles highlight the challenges ahead as Apple mounts an ambitious foray into showbiz. The company plans to spend $1 billion on TV shows over the next year and has hired a team that’s already bidding for projects against the biggest media companies in the world.

 

With $262 billion in cash and securities in its coffers, Apple has the money to make as much TV as anyone, but some in Hollywood are beginning to wonder whether it has a clear strategy. The most valuable company in the world, Apple is under the constant glare of regulators, reporters, and competitors. Furthermore, the people who use the hundreds of millions of Apple devices have pretty mainstream views about the brand’s appeal. Macs, iPhones, and iPads are also often in the hands of children—a group unsuited for much of the edgy programming that’s fueled the new golden age of television.

 

The secretive company says little about its plans. No one in Hollywood knows where the shows will be available to watch, how much they’ll cost, or even how Apple will publicize them. But in recent weeks, a visit to Apple offices in the Culver City suburb of Los Angeles has become as much a rite of passage for Hollywood producers, agents, and filmmakers as dining at Spago. So clues are beginning to emerge, based on interviews with more than a dozen people who’ve met with Apple executives or work there.

 

The company has had many fits and starts in Hollywood over the past two years, with as many as four different executives claiming to be responsible for its big move into Tinseltown. To lead the latest charge, Apple hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, former heads of Sony Corp.’s TV studio. The two men have sterling reputations as key members of the studio that produced . They’ve hired other industry veterans to oversee the development of new shows. They also plan to hire at least 70 staffers—including development executives, publicists, and marketers—to fill out their division. “They are professionals with deep relationships with many of the people who make some of the best shows on TV today,” says Jon Avnet, who directed 10 episodes of Sony’s TV show .

Erlicht and Van Amburg have agreed to remake Steven Spielberg’s anthology series  with NBCUniversal and are in the bidding for another show, about morning TV show hosts played by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston. Apple wants to have a small slate of shows ready for release in 2019. “I think for both NBC and Apple, it’s about finding that sweet spot with content that is creative and challenging but also allows as many people in the tent as possible,” says Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment.

However, Apple isn’t interested in the types of shows that become hits on HBO or Netflix, like —at least not yet. The company plans to release the first few projects to everyone with an Apple device, potentially via its TV app, and top executives don’t want kids catching a stray nipple. Every show must be suitable for an Apple Store. Instead of the nudity, raw language, and violence that have become staples of many TV shows on cable or streaming services, Apple wants comedies and emotional dramas with broad appeal, such as the NBC hit , and family shows like . People pitching edgier fare, such as an eight-part program produced by filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón and starring Casey Affleck, have been told as much.

Yet like Netflix Inc., Apple is thinking globally. The company hired Amazon.com Inc. executive Morgan Wandell to oversee its international division and is about to hire Jay Hunt to oversee development in Europe.

All this has led many producers to label Apple as conservative and picky. Some potential partners say they walk into Apple’s offices expecting to be blown away by the most successful consumer technology company in the world only to run up against the reality of dealing with a giant, cautious corporation taking its first steps into a new industry.

Apple isn’t the first tech company to underwhelm Hollywood. Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp. spent millions of dollars on TV shows before pulling back within a couple of years, frustrated by the slow pace of development and their inability to attract audiences. Even Amazon, at first considered a success story, is now drawing complaints from writers and producers over casting decisions and instances of buying scripts but not producing them. The online retailer also fired its studio chief in October over allegations of sexual harassment.

Streaming video is just one of many fronts in the global battle between technology titans. After years of flirting with Hollywood, Silicon Valley companies are finally writing big checks, spurring a doubling of video production over the past decade. Amazon spent an estimated $4.5 billion this year on movies and TV shows, while Facebook and YouTube will spend more than $1 billion each. Netflix, which plans to spend $8 billion in 2018, dwarfs them all.

Yet no one arouses more interest in Hollywood than Apple. One reason it quickly climbed the list of places to pitch new shows: the almost cult-like attachment many have for its phones. “Their brand is the most important thing,” says Avnet, who’s made shows for Snapchat and YouTube and is in the process of making one for Facebook.

By funding original shows, the company also can remind customers to think of the Apple TV streaming device before the Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick and to use Apple’s year-old TV app instead of Amazon Prime Video or YouTube. With iPhone growth slowing, the company is looking to other divisions to deliver sales. ITunes, Apple Music, and the TV app are part of its services business, where CEO Cook wants to double revenue by 2020, to about $50 billion.

Yet Apple isn’t trying to compete with Walt Disney Co. or Netflix to become the biggest backer of TV shows and movies on the planet. Instead, the company wants its shows to complement those of other networks and streaming services that consumers already watch on Apple devices. Its new shows, however, will no longer be placed on Apple Music, which will limit its focus to music-related video.

Whether Apple can channel consumer demand in TV as well as it does in smartphones remains to be seen. Around the time Apple delayed the release of , its top brass also decided the TV unit should move up the release of , a reality competition series in which entrepreneurs pitched celebrity investors on their idea for an app, so it would make its debut on Apple Music in time for the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Apple execs loved the show and thought it would endear the tech giant to software writers. The show wasn’t supposed to be released for a couple of months, and there was no marketing plan in place—a vital step in the age of too much TV. Apple pressed ahead, and the show came and went with little fanfare beyond a couple of savage reviews. The show is “a bland, tepid, barely competent knock-off of ,” according to ’s Maureen Ryan. “There’s no reason” for Hollywood to lose sleep over it, she wrote. Apple is betting the same won’t be said about its broader TV strategy.

BOTTOM LINE – Apple will spend $1 billion next year on programming for television. By sticking with mainstream shows, it could miss out on viewers who increasingly favor edgier fare.
 

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-25/apple-s-billion-dollar-bet-on-hollywood-is-the-opposite-of-edgy

New Movie Tech

8K TVs are coming, but you probably shouldn’t buy one yet

Charmaine Blake

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8K TV. Can you tell?

Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

“Every now and then, TV manufacturers start a new trend to keep the hype for their products going. If you bought a TV in the last year, a salesman probably told you that some iteration of HDR is a must-have. Your current TV likely supports 3D — and I bet you haven’t used that feature in ages.

The hot new thing at this year’s IFA, Berlin’s trade show which gathers the largest consumer electronics manufacturers, was 8K TVs. I’ve seen those TVs, and I can tell you, they all had an absolutely stunning picture.

I can also tell you that you absolutely don’t need one.

TVs with 8K resolution — that’s (typically) 7,680×4,320 pixels — have been around for a while, in the form of concept devices and prototypes. But the difference this year is that you’ll actually be able to buy one.

At IFA, Samsung unveiled its first-ever QLED 8K TV, the 85-inch Q900FN. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a top-of-the-line Samsung TV, including crazy-good contrast, brightness and HDR10+ support. I’ve seen it, and it’s gorgeous. It displayed a short video showing owls and bridges and a lady walking over a meadow and I could clearly see every blade of grass, every feather.

LG, Toshiba, and other manufacturers also had 8K TVs on display at the show, their picture equally beautiful to my eyes.

Toshiba’s 8K TV, displaying a static photo of buttons.

Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

It’s tempting to think that this is the next big thing in TVs — after all, Full HD TVs were so much better than the HD Ready ones, and 4K TVs are so much better than Full HD TVs. It’s just natural that the resolution keeps increasing, right?

Well, no.

While it’s possible to tell the difference between 4K and 8K picture, the difference is nowhere near as stunning as the difference between 4K and 1080p a.k.a. Full HD resolution. Your eyes are the limiting factor here, and while the actual numbers get a little complicated, the simple test of actually going to a store and looking at a 4K vs. 8K TV will show you that the difference is not dramatic………………………”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/8k-tvs/

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Streaming TV services now reach 5% of U.S. Wi-Fi households, up 58% since last year

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“The number of U.S. households watching streaming TV services – those that deliver cable TV-like programming over the internet – has grown a remarkable 58% over last year, according to new data from comScore. However, these services still account for a small portion of the overall market, as only 5 percent (4.9 million) of U.S. households with Wi-Fi streamed TV over one of these services in April 2018.

In citing that number, comScore was specifically looking at what it called “pure-play” vMVPDs (virtual multichannel video programming distributors) – a variation on a fancy industry term that refers to live TV services like Sling TV. These services stream multiple channels over the internet without supplying infrastructure like coax cable to do so, and don’t offer other content like original programming or user videos.

Today’s lineup of these “vMVPDs” includes: Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue, fuboTV, Philo, YouTube TV, and Hulu with Live TV. These “pure-play vMVPDs,” as comScore referred to them, are basically that same list, excluding Hulu Live and YouTube TV, as those also include access to non-linear, digital-only content like original programming.

The firm found that consumer adoption of these “pure-play” live TV services is growing significantly, as more people cut the cord with traditional pay TV………………”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/16/streaming-tv-services-now-reach-5-of-u-s-wi-fi-households-up-58-since-last-year/

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Amazon is looking beyond the small screen with potential cinema chain

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Amazon could be looking to buying a chain of cinemas.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Amazon has already established brick-and-mortar stores selling its products and groceries, and now it apparently wants a slice of the cinema business.

As reported by Bloomberg, Amazon is looking to acquire Landmark Theatres, which claims to be the largest cinema chain dedicated to independent and foreign films, with 52 theatres in 27 markets.

The e-commerce giant is reportedly working with other suitors to buy the chain from Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner-backed Wagner/Cuban Cos. There have been no decisions made, and with talks still to come, it’s not set in stone that a deal will go ahead.

The potential move into brick-and-mortar cinema echoes Amazon’s efforts to look further than its online presence in recent years, as evidenced by its real-life bookstores and its foray into checkout-free grocery shopping, Amazon Go, not to mention its $14 billion acquisition of grocery chain Whole Foods.

But Amazon’s potential entry into physical cinemas could help further sure up the profile of its Amazon Studios films, such as Manchester by the Sea, an Amazon Original which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017.

Despite the accolades, there is general tension between newfangled streaming services and the film industry. These concerns are primarily directed to the biggest disrupter of them all, Netflix, which is aggressive in its stance to only show its own films on its service.

Steven Spielberg said earlier this year that Netflix films which either don’t show in cinemas, or only for a short time to satisfy movie awards criteria, shouldn’t get accolades like an Oscar.

“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. If it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar,” Spielberg told ITV News.

“I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

Although Amazon is also a disruptor, it sticks to convention when it comes to distribution. It runs movies in cinemas for months before they sit on Prime Video, and is public about ensuring its films screen in theaters.”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/08/16/amazon-cinema-landmark-theatres/

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