Apple has added more firepower to its staff roster by poaching three executives from Amazon Studios.
Apple is making no secret of its plans to take on Netflix, Amazon and others in the growing war for online eyeballs, with a reported $1 billion budget prepared to splash on content. It has swiftly assembled an impressive array of names to spend it, with Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg leaving Sony Pictures TV to head up Apple’s efforts and former Channel 4 exec Jay Hunt joining them.
Now, Deadline reveals that Apple has snatched several heads from rival Amazon too. Amazon Studios’ second TV hire, Tara Sorensen, will head up Apple’s kids’ programming, bringing with her years of experience, including National Geographic and Sony Pictures. Tara Pietri will head up legal affairs, after a previous, similar position at A&E. Carine Walker will fill a similar role to her international development position at Amazon Studios, with an eye for identifying literature suitable for screen adaptations.
The trio arrive hot on the heels of Michelle Lee, who has been the head of development for Jason Katims’ True Jack Productions for five years. She will be a senior creative executive for Apple Worldwide Video.
They also follow a period of upheaval at Amazon Studios, after former chief Roy Price resigned amid sexual harassment allegations that surrounded The Man in the High Castle, and former head of drama and comedy, Joe Lewis, also departed.
Apple assembles TV exec dream team to lead new video push
26th October 2017
Apple has assembled a dream team of TV executives to lead its new push into original video content.
Apple is making no secret of its plans to take on Netflix, Amazon and others in the growing war for online eyeballs, with a reported $1 billion budget prepared to splash on content. The tech giant is not pulling any punches, quickly throwing a bunch of star talent after that figure.
First up were Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who were nabbed from Sony Pictured TV back in June – a hiring that took the entertainment world by surprise. The duo, who are now spearheading Apple’s video productions, have been behind such shows as Breaking Bad and The Blacklist, and were also responsible for the £100 million co-production deal on Netflix’s The Crown.
Now, Apple is doubling down with another top name on its team sheet: Jay Hunt. A Channel 4, BBC and Channel 5 veteran, she has been behind some of the biggest shows in the UK in recent years, from Sherlock and Luther to Humans and Gogglebox. She also helped bring Homeland and The Handmaid’s Tale to Channel 4, not to mention the poaching of The Great British Bake Off, which moves from the BBC to Channel 4 in a controversial deal last year.
Hunt will be Creative Chief for Apple’s European video arm, marking not only the growing clout behind the tech world’s rising entertainment presence, but also how serious Apple are about getting a slice of the lucrative pie.
Hunt will start working for Apple in January, where she was be joined by Morgan Wendall, snapped up from Amazon. There, he was involved in such projects as The Man in the High Castle and Tom Clancy series Jack Ryan. Wendall will be the Head of International Creative Development.
Apple’s existing video content has mostly bee restricted to a spin-off series of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke for Apple Music, with one mooted biopic of Elvis Presley (produced by The Weinstein Company) being scrapped, after sexual allegations against Harvey Weinstein came to light. Earlier this month, though, it confirmed that it has become the home of a long-running attempt to revive Steven Spielberg’s 1980s anthology series, Amazon Stories.
While its $1 billion budget may pale in comparison to Netflix – which has just raised $1.6 billion in additional funding, as it ups its overall spend on content from $6 billion this year to $8 billion in 2018 – Apple now has a Spielberg project on its slate, and an impressive quartet of chiefs that could be any established studio. Prepare for the company to take a big bite out of the streaming pie in the coming years.