Apple Developing TV Show Starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston

Apple is developing a new TV show that will star Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Described as a "morning show drama," the series will star Witherspoon and Aniston as morning talk show hosts, taking a look into the "cutthroat world" of morning TV.

The show is described as an inside look at the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning, exploring the unique challenges faced by the women (and men) who carry out this daily televised ritual. Brian Stelter's book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV -- which was previously in development at Lifetime as a TV movie -- will provide additional background for the show, which is based on an original concept by Ellenberg.
Reports suggested Apple was in a bidding war for the Aniston/Witherspoon show back in September, and it appears the company won out over competitors like Netflix and Showtime. While there's no script available for the show at this time, Apple has inked a deal for two seasons, each with 10 episodes.

Aniston and Witherspoon will star, executive produce, and co-own the upcoming show alongside Media Res, the company that will produce it for Apple. The series is written by Jay Carson, known for his work on House of Cards.

The new morning show drama is Apple's second series that's currently in development. Apple in October inked a deal with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television and Comcast's NBC Universal to create new episodes of sci-fi series "Amazing Stories." "Amazing Stories," created by Spielberg, originally ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

Apple so far has released two original television shows, "Planet of the Apps" and "Carpool Karaoke: The Series." Both of those shows aired exclusively on Apple Music, but it's not yet clear if Apple will also make its higher-profile content available solely on Apple Music or if it will also be accessible on iTunes.

Apple's push into original content is being led by former Sony executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who joined Apple back in June. Van Amburg and Erlicht, who helped produce shows like "Breaking Bad," "The Crown," and "Better Call Saul," are running Apple's video programming efforts on a worldwide scale under iTunes chief Eddy Cue. Apple has also made several other video hires in recent months as it aims to better compete with companies like Netflix and Amazon.

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Apple Has Given Drake Permission to Produce ‘Whatever He Chooses’ Amid His Push Into TV and Film

In an in-depth article about Drake's push into the TV and film industry, The Hollywood Reporter claims that Apple has given the Toronto-born rapper permission to produce "whatever he chooses."


Here's what the report says, with emphasis ours:
But the biggest indicator of Drake's big Hollywood push is whom he is partnering with next: Steve Golin, who runs Anonymous Content (one of Hollywood's hottest production houses and home of Spotlight and Mr. Robot), for an untitled TV series; film studio A24; and, perhaps most significantly, Apple, which has given him the go-ahead to produce whatever he chooses — at least, according to Jimmy Iovine — just as the cash-flush titan is poised to shake up the content space.
Drake's exact strategy remains to be seen, but Apple says it will simply support whatever he wants to do, according to the report. After all, the artist has been an extremely valuable partner for Apple over the past few years.

Drake and Apple's Eddy Cue introduced Apple Music at WWDC 2015 via Associated Press

Not only did Drake help unveil and promote Apple Music on stage when it launched in 2015, but he became the first artist to top one billion streams on the service with his hit album "Views" last year. His show OVO Sound Radio on Apple's Beats 1 station also holds the record for the most listened-to episode to date.

"Drake almost single-handedly helped us become culturally relevant from the day we launched," said Robert Kondrk, a vice president of Apple Music.

The report claims American rapper Future, who is friends with Drake, may also have the green light from Apple to produce content.

"If I had a company today, I would give it to Drake and Future to run in a minute," said Jimmy Iovine, the record mogul who has worked at Apple since its $3 billion acquisition of Beats in 2014. "They're incredibly talented guys. Very, very gifted."

Full Article: Drake's Hotline to Hollywood: Inside an Ambitious Push Into Film and TV


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Apple Wants to Produce Comedies and Dramas That Are Viewer Friendly Enough for Apple Stores

Apple's reported $1 billion push into original content will include comedies and emotional dramas with broad appeal, according to Bloomberg.


The report claims Apple wants every show it produces to be suitable enough for an Apple Store, as opposed to content with nudity, raw language, and violence. Hollywood producers that have pitched edgier content, such as an eight-part series produced by filmmaker Alfonso Cuarónto, have allegedly been turned away.

Apple wants to have a small slate of shows ready for release in 2019, a timeframe previously reported. Unlike Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke: The Series, however, its new shows will supposedly no longer be placed on Apple Music, which in turn will be limited to music-related videos and documentaries.

Carpool Karaoke itself was supposed to launch in April, but its debut was delayed until August due to some coarse content.
Days before Apple Inc. planned to celebrate the release of its first TV show last spring at a Hollywood hotel, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told his deputies the fun had to wait. Foul language and references to vaginal hygiene had to be cut from some episodes of Carpool Karaoke, a show featuring celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Blake Shelton, and Chelsea Handler cracking jokes while driving around Los Angeles.

While the delay of Carpool Karaoke was widely reported last April, the reasons never were. Edits were made, additional episodes were shot, and Apple shifted resources to another show. When Carpool Karaoke was released in August, it didn’t make much of a splash.
Apple has aggressively hired as it pushes into the content arena. In June, the company hired Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, two Sony Pictures Television executives, to lead its video programming efforts. Apple has also hired Matt Cherniss, Morgan Wandell, Jay Hunt, and several other industry executives.


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Apple Expands TV Efforts in Europe With Hiring of Channel 4 Alum Jay Hunt

In the wake of Apple's hiring of Jamie Erlicht, Zack Van Amburg, Matt Cherniss, and Morgan Wandell for its ongoing push into premium television content, Variety reports today that the company has now hired Channel 4 alum Jay Hunt as creative director for Europe under Apple's Worldwide Video service.

Hunt will start work in January as part of the international content development team that reports to Erlicht and Van Amburg, the two executives spearheading all of Apple's new TV ambitions. Hunt's arrival at Apple follows her exit from a chief creative officer position at Channel 4 this past June. She was there for the last seven years, and helped develop shows like Black Mirror, Luther, Sherlock, Humans, and more.

Image of Jay Hunt via Variety

Hunt's joining of the team follows news of other international expansions for Apple's premium TV plans, with a report of the company hiring Morgan Wandell hitting last Friday. Wandell will be in charge of international creative development for worldwide video at Apple, and comes from Amazon Studios.

On the content side of things, Apple is said to have set aside a "$1 billion war chest" for its new TV initiative, and has become "inundated" with spec scripts and projects since it made its home at The Culver Studios in California. The first big project coming out of Apple's Worldwide Video service will be new episodes of Steven Spielberg's science fiction anthology series "Amazing Stories".


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Apple ‘Inundated’ With Spec Scripts and TV Projects for Continued Push Into Prestige Dramas

Apple executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, formerly of Sony Television, have spent the last few weeks visiting agents and studio executives in Hollywood, spearheading Apple's ongoing attempts to land "big, smart, splashy dramas" in the vein of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. In a new profile on Apple's ambitions by The Hollywood Reporter, multiple studio chiefs are said to be sending Apple spec scripts and packaged projects as potential options for its big break into the premium TV show space.

Apple is reportedly not interested in spending money at the scale of a rival like Netflix (around $6 billion each year on original content), but multiple reports over the past few months have shown the company's gaining interest in both original "prestige" TV content and major film distribution deals, and that momentum has only picked up in recent weeks.

In recent weeks, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, poached from Sony Television in June to spearhead Apple's content acquisitions and video strategy, have been spotted all over town making their pitch to agents and studio executives. One studio chief says, "Who wouldn't want to be the 'Mad Men' or 'House of Cards' on Apple?"

"There's this sense of, 'It's the most innovative company in the world, of course you want to have a show there,' " says UTA TV head Matt Rice, whose agency, like many of its peers, has inundated the industry's hottest new entrant with spec scripts and packaged projects. Apple, which is famously secretive about its plans, declined to comment for this story.
Apple's newly leased property at the iconic California production site, The Culver Studios, is said to have helped the company "leap-frog" much of the Hollywood competition, with a handful of agents commenting that any project they would take to Netflix or HBO is also being delivered to Apple as well. Apple's so-called "overnight status" as a major player in the business is said to be due to the company's built-in branding, as well as its deep pockets of cash reserves that could be tapped into for the TV drama push.

Some projects have already been lost by Apple's content team, however, including an origin series for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest focused on Nurse Ratched, created by Ryan Murphy and starring Sarah Paulson. Netflix eventually outbid both Apple and Hulu for the show, as well as the ongoing streaming rights for Murphy's American Horror Story anthology series (with new episodes also streamable on Hulu).

Apple is still being "deluged with nearly every script in town," but sources said that Van Amburg, Erlicht, and the rest of Apple's team have passed on most of them, in attempts to keep Apple's penchant for quality alive in its TV shows as well. The team has bids out on a few projects, however, including a reboot of Steve Spielberg's 1980 anthology series Amazing Stories, and a morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

Other potential partners with Apple include Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Moore, Ryan Coogler, Mike Schur, and more, who have all been approached by Apple's team recently in some form. The ultimate question, according to talent agency ICM Partners, is finding out where -- and how -- these shows will be streamed.
Still, the lack of clarity has left at least a few, including ICM Partners managing director Chris Silbermann, asking tough questions. "Jamie and Zack are good guys, and they've done business with all of us for decades, and it's Apple, so everybody will sell there," he says. "That being said, they need to articulate to the creative community and the industry at large their marketing, release and distribution strategy. Simply, what does it mean to be an Apple show?"
Check out The Hollywood Reporter's full article on Apple's TV strategy right here.


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Four More TV Execs Join Apple’s Video Content Team

Four additional veteran executives from the television industry are joining Apple's video content team, according to a new report from Variety.

Former head of current programming at Sony Pictures Kim Rozenfeld is joining Apple as its future head of programming and lead executive on documentary series development. Apple has thus far purchased several music-related documentaries that have aired on Apple Music, including Kygo: Stole the Show and Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A Bad Boy Story.


Rozenfeld formerly worked with Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, two Sony Pictures Television executives who joined Apple in June to lead Apple's video programming efforts. Erlicht and Amburg have produced popular shows like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Crown, and more.

Two additional former Sony employees are joining the video team as development executives. Both Max Aronson and Ali Woodruff also worked with Amburg and Erlicht and will report to the duo at Apple. Aronson previously served as VP of drama development at Sony Pictures Television, while Woodruff was the director of creative affairs.

Rita Cooper Lee, who formerly worked as the WGN America head of publicity is joining Apple to lead communications for the video content unit, and she will report directly to Apple head of communications Tom Neumayr. Lee is the second employee to join Apple from WGN America. Former president and general manager of WGN America Matt Cherniss joined Apple earlier in August to help oversee the development of the video unit.

Apple is picking up a lot of talent in the video and television area as it experiments with original content as a way to promote its Apple Music service. The company has launched two shows so far, including Planet of the Apps, a series about app developers pitching ideas to investors, and Carpool Karaoke, a music-based show developed from the Carpool Karaoke segment on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

While Apple's first two shows have been reality shows, the company is said to have bigger content ambitions, with rumors suggesting Apple is pursing deals with A-list talent to create a roster of shows on par with Netflix and Amazon.

Recent rumors suggest Apple is bidding on a "high-profile drama" starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon and aiming to get the film distribution rights for the James Bond film franchise.


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