Apple hasn’t even launched its new video streaming service, much less its long-rumoured slate of original content, and yet the company is already gearing up to make sure its movies and TV shows will be contenders for the Academy Awards, Emmys, and other prestigious awards.
According to Bloomberg, Apple has begun hiring people with awards strategy experience to create campaigns for a whole slew of entertainment industry awards. Sources indicate that the company has already made some hires in this area, with one coming from Disney’s television group, and is now seeking a higher-level candidate who will be responsible for overseeing the entire process. People familiar with Apple’s plans are saying that the company wants to ensure that it’s in the running for Emmy awards for its content as soon as next year.
While the collection of big-name stars, writers, and directors, ranging from Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon to M. Knight Shyamalan and J.J. Abrams, should already leave little doubt that Apple is serious about producing its own original content, the company’s ambitions to actually score some of Hollywood’s top awards is further evidence that the company plans to bring its A-game.
Awards strategists are relatively unknown outside of Hollywood circles, but are a critical part of ensuring that movies and TV shows get in front of the committees and voters that need to see them in order to be considered for awards. Responsibilities include things like arranging screenings and publicity events and setting up interviews and meet-and-greets with actors and filmmakers. However, awards strategists must work within a strict set of guidelines to ensure that they are simply promoting the material on its own merits and not trying to exert improper influence with voters.
Even getting nominated for Academy Awards and Emmys can be a huge boon to the oft-disparaged streaming industry, demonstrating legitimacy to those high-profile directors and actors who still shun streaming productions as second-rate to work done by big, traditional Hollywood studios. Winning an Oscar or an Emmy not only helps to draw in new subscribers, but also attract more Hollywood talent on better terms.
Apple is far from the first to play this game, and some would argue that it needs its own awards strategists just to compete in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. Last year Netflix fired the first shot with its hiring of well-known strategist Lisa Taback, who was the force behind best picture Oscars for films like Moonlight and The King’s Speech. No doubt as a result of Taback’s hiring, Netflix’s Roma actually took three Oscars this year and even managed to get a nomination for best picture.
As new ways of distributing content challenge traditional rules, however, the relationship between traditional Hollywood moguls and the streaming industry is still finding its ground. Following Netflix’s success with Roma, Steven Spielberg spoke out against Netflix and other streaming services, saying that they should be disqualified from receiving Academy Awards unless they are exclusively shown in theatres, at least during their initial release. Spielberg has said previously that movies released by streaming services should be treated in the same way as “TV movies,” making them eligible for Emmys, but excluded from consideration for Oscars. As a member of the Academy Board of Governors, Spielberg is reportedly trying to use his clout to change the rules, but many others disagree, suggesting that Netflix and other streaming services have become an important and strong force in movie making, changing the game in generally positive ways.
Still, one of the requirements for an Academy Award is that movies must have a theatrical release, so it’s unclear whether Apple is going to go quite that far with its content. Netflix’s Roma qualified by providing what Spielberg referred to as a “token” release in a few select theatres for a couple of weeks. By comparison, Amazon, which earned a best picture nomination and two Oscars last year for Manchester by the Sea, has shown a willingness to play Hollywood’s game by following a more traditional theatrical release schedule for its original movies before making them available on its Prime service.
Apple is also no stranger to Emmy awards. The company won its first technical Emmy award back in 2001 for developing FireWire, and has won several other technical awards since, including one in 2002 for Final Cut Pro, and most recently another technical Emmy last year for Siri on the Apple TV. In addition to technical awards, Apple also won an Emmy in 2014 for “Most Outstanding Commercial of the Year” for its Christmas-themed “Misunderstood” iPhone 5s ad, and last year the company took home its first primetime Emmy for original content for Carpool Karaoke.