Apple offered the first glimpse of the future of series-TV programming on Apple Music at the Recode Media conference, where trailers for its first two series unspooled along with perhaps the most in-depth commentary the man introducing them, content czar Eddy Cue, has yet to share about his employer’s plans in the entertainment business.
Cue was joined by veteran TV producer Ben Silverman, producer of one of the two series, “Planet of the Apps.” “The Late Late Show with James Corden” producer Ben Winston also came on stage midway through the conversation to discuss the other project, a series version of the “Carpool Karaoke” segment from their CBS show.
Footage of both unscripted series was unveiled, as was plans for a spring launch date. “Karaoke” will premiere in April, Cue revealed, while no specific date within the spring was offered for “Planet.”
But as much attention as the series got here in Laguna Niguel, even more curiosity was apparent regarding what’s still to come. But Cue stayed noncommittal in the face of a barrage of questions intended to yield what Apple’s strategy with regard to Hollywood would be in the coming years.
“Four years from now, I don’t know where we’re going to be in relation to this,” said Cue, who even batted down inquiries about whether Apple could potentially acquire a studio. “We’re trying different things. How fast it grows or where it goes remains to be seen.”
Apple Music’s expansion beyond songs into series is a bid to continue broadening the base for the subscription service, which has attracted over 20 million subscribers in 15 months of operation — a fact Cue was proud to tout at Recode.
Cue revealed that he was eager to partner with Silverman because of their relationship dating back to Apple’s support for an NBC series he produced 10 years ago, “The Office.” Silverman credited the series’ availability on iTunes as helping to grow its audience, not to mention integration deals for Apple products that helped keep the series flush during its primetime run.
He also said Apple brings a cool factor that helped attract two of the judges, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba, who appear on “Planet of the Apps,” an unscripted contest format featuring app developers. “I don’t think Gwyneth or Jessica would have ever done a show if it wasn’t for Apple being a partner,” said Silverman.
The other new Apple Music series, “Karaoke,” will feature a unique pairing of celebrities in each episode, such as John Legend with Alicia Keys and Billy Eichner with Metallica. Corden appears in one episode as well, with Will Smith, which footage revealed takes the “Karaoke” concept to a helicopter for a singalong to R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
While it’s been widely reported that Apple is already producing its first scripted series with Dr. Dre, “Vital Signs,” Cue made no mention of the series.
Questioned about comparing its business to that of Netflix, Cue made clear Apple is not at the point where it is considering rapidly ramping up on content licensing or acquisitions. “We’re not out trying to buy a bunch of shows,” he said. “We’re trying things that are creative, that move culture, that Apple is adding some value to. We’ll see.”
Cue also expressed a strong aversion to the commercial-based TV model yet stopped short of ruling it out for the future of video content on Apple Music. “I’m not saying we’ll never do it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the direction we should be going. I don’t think that’s what our customers are asking for.”