Hollywood Producers Say Apple Is Difficult to Deal With

Apple In Hollywood Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
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Apple has had a rough ride in its foray into original programming, apparently moving much more slowly than it could have due to its very “hands-on” approach in dealing with Hollywood personalities, and a struggle to find a balance between its own content goals and those of the agents and producers that it’s been working with.

According to a new article in The New York Post, Hollywood heavyweights were eager to work with Apple when it first came to the table two years ago, but have since found Apple to be “difficult” to work with.

Apple’s approach was fragmented in the early days of its original content ambitions; Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, was ostensibly at the helm, although then Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine also had his fingers in the pie as the force behind Apple’s early original productions such as Carpool Karaoke and the more short-lived Planet of the Apps. Early reports suggested that multiple Apple executives were working on content deals from different angles, and the company lacked any unified vision for what form its streaming video offering would ultimately take, with Iovine naturally pushing for an extension of Apple Music, while Cue was working on more serious Hollywood-style blockbusters.

This sort of directionless confusion led Apple CEO Tim Cook to get more hands-on himself, as well as hiring former Sony Pictures co-Presidents, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to take the helm as leads in a new Worldwide Video Content division, bringing some serious Hollywood clout to the team. According to the Post, Cook in fact began getting much more directly involved than previously reported, including giving notes himself, and actually showing up personally on sets where Apple’s original content projects are being filmed.

According to the Post, Cook in fact began getting much more directly involved than previously reported, including giving notes himself, and actually showing up personally on sets where Apple’s original content projects are being filmed.

As one producer said, “Tim Cook is giving notes and getting involved” and apparently often repeatedly sends notes telling writers and directors, “don’t be so mean!” Cook has been specifically seen on the set for “See” in Vancouver, as well as visiting the LA studio where Apple’s original Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston drama is being shot.

Sources have complained that Tim Cook and other Apple executives have been “very involved” — an unusual and frustrating move for them in an industry that usually isn’t faced with corporate intrusions. Producers are also irritated by Apple’s “lack of transparency” and “lack of clarity” citing problems with the company often being unclear about exactly what it wants, and tying its hands with its insistence on family-friendly content, as well as shutting down what it considers controversial topics such as religion or the negative consequences of technology.

They are making big changes, firing and hiring new writers. There’s a lack of clarity on what they want. A lot of the product is not as good as they hoped it to be.

Unnamed Hollywood Producer

Apple executives also appear to have had slightly unrealistic expectations for what they wanted from much of the company’s original content, finding the results to be less than they had hoped for, and getting their hands into mixing up production teams with big changes that Hollywood moguls are unaccustomed to dealing with.

To be fair, the Post notes that these problems aren’t entirely unique to Apple, but indicative of a culture clash between Hollywood and Silicon Valley that also plagued the early days of Netflix and Amazon. Most significant is the number of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that Silicon Valley companies typically require, with Apple putting an endless stream of paper in front of Hollywood professionals before they would even talk about most projects.

Apple is expected to be ready to launch its new content streaming service later this year; it will likely unveil the service later this month on March 25, although it may take a few more months before all of the pieces are in place for a full launch. While some analysts have suggested that the new video service will be crucial to Apple’s long-term bottom line, others like D.A. Davidson analyst Tom Forte think that it’s going to be “more of a hobby than a serious effort” in the short term” although all agree that Apple certainly has the muscle to ultimately dominate the streaming video industry if it choose to do so and can play its cards right.

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