Although most of the critics haven’t exactly been kind to the slate of original television shows that Apple debuted on its Apple TV+ service this month, it seems the everyday audience of normal viewers has a different opinion — millions of people flocked to check out The Morning Show, See, For All Mankind, and Dickinson right after Apple TV+ launched on Nov. 1, and by all reports they’ve been sticking around for more.
The results would seem to validate Apple’s strategy of spending large amounts of money on a small number of high-quality projects with big budgets and big name talent. With The Morning Show alone, Apple has made Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon the highest-paid TV stars in Hollywood, and it looks like it’s continuing to put its hundreds of billions of dollars to work in attracting other high-profile executives, producers, writers, and directors in order to continue its strategy of creating ultra-premium content.
According to Deadline, Apple’s latest coup may be in an exclusive production deal with former HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler, an executive who has been described as the visionary responsible for bringing Game of Thrones to the network.
Plepler spent three decades at HBO before leaving last February, in the midst of the reshuffling of the WarnerMedia networks under AT&T’s new ownership, choosing to depart from the executive chair and return to his roots a producer.
Shortly after his departure, Plepler launched his own production company with the help of some outside financial backers, and after being courted by multiple suitors, Apple TV+ heads Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg appear to have successfully wooed him into an exclusive production deal with Apple, with only the final terms of a deal still to be hammered out.
During his tenure at HBO, Plepler was known for his great creative instincts and his willingness to take risks in order to deliver high-quality shows to the network — a set of ideals that seems completely in lockstep with Apple’s own goals.
Apple TV+ Could Be the New HBO
With 28 years at HBO, Plepler is considered the driving force who shaped the network into what it is today — what Plepler has described to employees as a “cultural and business phenomenon.”
Plepler began with HBO working in public relations and producing documentaries before later ascending to the position of co-president of HBO in 2007, where alongside his other co-president, Eric Kessler, he oversaw programming that would take the network in a fresh direction following the network’s previous chief executive’s scandalous fell from grace. During Plepler’s five-year tenure as co-president, he championed high-profile series like Game of Thrones, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Veep, Girls, and The Newsroom before rising to the role of CEO in 2012, a move that was considered the completion of his “remarkable ascension” at the network.
Apple has also already demonstrated that it intends to take on programming of HBO’s calibre quite literally, with reports that its first own in-house production will be Masters of the Air, the third-instalment in the World War II franchise that began at HBO with Band of Brothers and Pacific.
As much as Plepler’s ethos of producing top-notch programming aligns with Apple’s goals, there’s no doubt no small amount of money involved in the equation as well — Apple has cash to burn, and can afford to offer Plepler a pretty lucrative deal, and considering Plepler’s massive industry connections and the talent and vision that shaped HBO into what it is today, there’s no doubt that this is going to spell even more interesting days ahead for Apple TV+.