Apple Could Have Its Own ‘Westworld’ by the End of 2017

While Apple has been flirting with original content for over a year now — 16 episodes of Carpool Karaoke, anyone? — according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal today, the company is plotting a significant push into original scripted TV shows and movies. As soon as the end of 2017, Apple could have its own lineup of prestige-ish TV, on par with, say, Westworld or Stranger Things. 

The shows would be rolled into the existing Apple Music app, their $10-a-month subscription streaming service.

While the move into original programming was described by the Journal as “significant,” it also reported Apple is only looking for a “handful of carefully selected shows.”

According to Variety, the lineup “would not be positioned as a rival to services like Netflix, HBO, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video.” Conspicuously missing from that list: Just regular, old Hollywood. More on that in a bit.

The company rather is taking aim at Spotify, Apple Music’s biggest competitor in the App Store — which itself announced a big push into video last year. Spotify finished last year with 40 million subscribers about double Apple Music. Those numbers aren’t bad for Apple considering how new their service is, but the two apps seems to be growing at the same rate. Whoever hits on original video first could very well win the streaming service war in the end.

Silicon Valley’s push into original video content, almost inadvertently, is affecting traditional media companies as well.

Yesterday the Hollywood Reporter published a story about the “size anxiety” movie studios and tv networks are facing as the tech industry moves into their lane. Their solution? What THR refers to as “merger mania” — middle-of-the-road studios snapping up even more middle-of-the-road studios in order to keep their seat at the big boys table.

Yes, Hollywood and Silicon Valley are getting to the highest-stakes dick-measuring competition of all time, and guess who’s winning?

The THR story centres around Lionsgate Films and its recent $4.4 billion (USD) acquisition of pay TV channel Starz. Even with box office hits like The Hunger Games and Twilight, Lionsgate and its $6 billion market cap “had to get bigger,” THR suggests.

Hollywood’s problem is that even the largest media companies, the Disneys and Comcasts of the world, are still just a fraction of the size of tech’s biggest giants. Studios like Lionsgate are looking for “scale” and “leverage,” c-suite buzzwords not quite sexy enough to translate for the typical consumer.

What this means is that we’ll likely see more and more walled garden services — a return, ironically, to the cable TV model of content — music and video exclusive to specific channels and providers, and a too-bad-so-sad approach for audiences.

Tech is eating everything. Publishing has been dealing with this for years now. Now, as both technical bandwidth and personal consumption increases, this effect is spilling over into more dynamic media. Studios seeking scale will likely be disappointed. As we’ve seen in publishing, more usually equals worse.

H/T: Variety