Apple’s rumored original programming push included bid for Top Gear stars

Apple could prop up its streaming video offerings by producing new movies or TV shows, but not anytime soon.

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Apple is reportedly looking to create its own movies or TV shows as it tries to make a mark on the streaming video landscape.

Citing unnamed industry sources, Variety reports that Apple has held “preliminary discussions” with Hollywood executives about producing original content. Apple also may have placed an “unprecedented bid” on former Top Gear stars Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond earlier this year, though they ultimately signed with Amazon last month.

Variety’s sources conflicted on how serious Apple intends to get about original programming. While one source said the company may create its own development and production divisions for a full-blown assault on Netflix, others said Apple is merely flirting with the idea.

There are also a lot of other unknowns right now, including whether Apple wants to outsource production or set up its own studio, and whether the programming push would cover movies, TV shows, or both. It’s unclear if Apple would sell this content on-demand or tie it to its long-rumored (and oft-delayed) subscription video service, and the Variety report doesn’t say whether the content would require an Apple device to access. (That might’ve been safe to assume if the new Apple Music service wasn’t also headed to Android.)

In other words, don’t expect Apple-product movies or TV shows to materialize any time soon. Even if Apple sets up a division for this purpose, it wouldn’t happen until 2016. From there, the process of creating and releasing original content can easily take a couple of years.

Why this matters: While the idea of Apple-made programming may seem unusual, Netflix and Amazon are proving that original content can help keep subscribers around. It also serves as a sort of insurance if established content providers walk away. As Apple negotiates with Hollywood on a subscription video service, it makes sense for the company to at least consider spending some of its $200 billion cash reserve on content that it actually controls.

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