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Apple Sets $1 Billion Budget for Original TV Shows, Movies (Report)

Is Apple ready for its big Hollywood debut?

The tech giant has targeted $1 billion in spending for original television series and films over the next year, looking to establish itself as a buyer of premium entertainment, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous individuals.

With its checkbook whipped out, Apple may be poised to acquire up to 10 TV high-caliber series, and company execs have begun scouting out prospects with agencies, according to the Journal.

Already, Apple has signaled its aims to become a significant Hollywood player with the hiring of Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht — longtime presidents at Sony Pictures Television — in June. The duo behind such hits as “The Blacklist,” “The Goldbergs,” and “Breaking Bad” are tasked with building a slate of world-class content for Apple. And this week the company revealed that it has tapped Matt Cherniss, ex-G.M. of WGN America and Tribune Studios, to head development for the original entertainment group.

Still, even with an annual budget of a billion dollars, Apple would trail Netflix, Amazon and HBO.

Netflix, the subscription streaming-video leader, plans to spend $7 billion on content next year (up from $6 billion in 2017), while analyst peg Amazon’s spending on programming for Prime Video at around $4.5 billion for 2017. Time Warner’s HBO spends around $2 billion per year on content.

To date, Apple’s forays into original video have been in support of Apple Music subscription service. It bowed unscripted competition series “Planet of the Apps” this summer and launched the “Carpool Karaoke” spinoff from James Corden’s CBS late-night show last week — neither of which impressed critics.

For Apple, a $1 billion outlay for original entertainment would barely make a dent in its balance sheet: The company reported $261.5 billion in cash, cash equivalents and long-term investments as of July 1, 2017.

Eddy Cue, the SVP of internet software and services who’s been with the company since 1989, is overseeing Apple’s original entertainment strategy. Cue, who reports to CEO Tim Cook, is in charge of the iTunes Store and Apple Music, along with other products and services including Apple Pay, Siri, Maps, and iCloud services.

“We have exciting plans in store for customers,” Cue said in announcing the hiring of Van Amburg and Erlicht, adding: “There is much more to come.”

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