As HBO pivots to whatever it’s trying to achieve with its messy new streaming service Max, Apple. appears to be shopping for content and talent to help make it a standout giant in quality streaming—a new HBO Now if you will. You know since AT&T seems intent on killing the real one.
Apple always wanted its service Apple TV+ to be great, focusing on quality rather than churning out a ton of so-so content to varying levels of success. And while its launch day lineup of originals was not especially mind-blowing, Apple has in recent weeks signaled that it’s trying to make itself a streaming service worth paying for. This week, multiple outlets reported that Apple is set to take on Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro—a deal that reportedly cost the company somewhere in the ballpark of $180 million to $200 million, according to Deadline, which cited sources familiar with the matter.
The film is based on David Grann’s non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. According to Deadline, Apple plans to finance and be the creative studio behind the film, but Paramount will handle distribution for a worldwide theatrical release. Paramount reportedly still has to sign off on the deal.
This is the second major deal in recent weeks that indicates Apple is looking to do more to diversify its content outside of its own originals. Earlier this month, Apple snapped up the WWII naval ship drama Greyhound, which was written by and stars Tom Hanks. For the 15-year licensing contract, Apple is rumored to have paid roughly $70 million. There are also reports Apple is looking to buy older content to beef up its service too.
Right now, Apple’s in a strange place where TV+ hasn’t caught on to the extent it probably should have for myriad reasons that probably could have been avoided, like tight-lipped marketing for the service’s shows that doesn’t really help sell films and series in the same way that it does help sell phones. But Apple also simply doesn’t have a lot to show even months after its launch, making the content that is currently available far easier to criticize for being underwhelming—especially because Apple made such a big deal about its service prior to launch. Apple has historically wanted to tell big stories without taking many risks, to its detriment. If it wants to start luring people to its streaming service in earnest, it has to stop trying to be everything for everyone. And it’s likely that even Apple knows this is the case.
If there’s any poker tell that Apple wants to do what HBO’s streaming service did incredibly well before the arrival of Max, it’s hiring the guy who helped make HBO an award-winning property. Back in January, Apple hired former HBO chief Richard Plepler in a 5-year agreement that will put Plepler behind the wheel as a producer for Apple TV+ projects.
In other words, if AT&T plans to wring HBO’s zombie streaming service dry, at least we have one possibility for a service willing to try to capture HBO Now’s former glory.