Could Apple Be Looking To Expand Into Reality TV?

American Idol Credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock
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Almost all of Apple’s original content projects are still in various stages of development, and recent reports suggest that although the company’s streaming service is expected to be unveiled on March 25, it may still be a few months before we see the first of Apple’s original content.

Even without a first episode of any of its current projects out of the gate, Apple is continuing to expand its content deals into a much wider reach, with Deadline reporting that Apple is now in talks with RTL Group, the European broadcasting and production behemoth behind reality competition shows like The X Factor, American Idol and America’s Got Talent (and in fact the entire world-wide “Idols” and “Got Talent” franchises), as well as game shows like Family Feud and The Price is Right.

While touting its strong relationship with HBO in an interview with Deadline, RTL Group CEO Bert Habets also let slip that the company is also in talks with “new OTT* platforms such as Apple” in efforts to expand its range and reach, although he offered no additional insight into what type of shows Apple may be looking for.

Despite RTL’s reputation for reality TV shows, which are developed under its Fremantle umbrella, however, Habets noted that the production company is working on “at least” 35 international scripted projects, and has established a new “video-on-demand working group” to explore joint development of high-end drama series, so any deals could still lean toward the more traditional scripted content that Apple has been pursuing thus far. It’s worth noting that Fremantle is also the force behind the Neil Gaiman fantasy-drama series American Gods.

However, Apple has no shortage of original content projects under its belt, and has been running the gamut with everything from dramas about morning talk shows and crime to M. Night Shyamalan thrillers, animated comedies, and ambitious epic sci-fi projects. A move into Idol-style reality TV or even game shows might just be the next thing on the horizon, and if Apple is even looking in this direction, signing deals with RTL’s Fremantle is the place to start.

RTL Group’s solid relationship with HBO is also notable, particularly considering that Apple is currently in talks about including HBO as part of the premium subscription package for its soon-to-be-unveiled video streaming service. According to Deadline, Fremantle is one of HBO’s largest independent suppliers for shows in the drama category, although with only three deals already in place, that may not be saying much.

However, Fremantle’s current relationship with HBO might make things complicated if the company is also looking to supply similar content to Apple. Although RTL Group and Fremantle are arguably large enough to do both — the group already boasts 60 television channels, eight video-on-demand platforms, and 300 of its own YouTube channels — there’s still the potential to create a conflict of interest, especially if Apple’s streaming platform is also including HBO’s content in the fold.

Regardless, it sounds like any talks are extremely preliminary at this point, and with Apple’s first original content not even expected to be ready for prime-time until later this year, chances are anything that could result from a deal with RTL Group is likely still a much longer ways off.

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