Signing Scorsese Signals Apple TV+ Is Playing the Long Game

Signing Scorsese Signals Apple TV+ Is
Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

With Netflix enjoying a seemingly insurmountable lead and Disney+ propelled by a rocket-like trajectory out of the gate, the streaming wars can feel as if they ended before they’ve even begun.

And then there’s Apple TV+ to consider.

The first-look deal announced Tuesday between Apple and cinema legend Martin Scorsese for TV and film projects coming out of his Sikelia Productions shingle is a reminder that though Apple’s entry into the subscription VOD biz hasn’t wowed the way some of its rivals’ moves have, the company hasn’t fully played its hand yet.

The ace in the hole still to come from Cupertino is looking like “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the Oscar-friendly reunion of Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, whose own Appian Way label was also awarded an Apple first-look deal for TV and unscripted feature projects.

Sure, these first-look deals may not necessarily be a reflection on the value of Scorsese and DiCaprio’s production companies but more like a gratuity Apple has to pay just to be in business with them on the film front.

Still, as VIP has argued, the $200 million or so “Moon” has been estimated to cost Apple is a small price to pay for Apple TV+ to do some dazzling on the awards circuit in the coming years. (The film is scheduled to begin shooting in February 2021.)

Expensive by Hollywood standards, $200 million is pocket change for a company with nearly $200 billion in cash on hand.

Of course, “Moon” is no sure thing — nothing is a lock no matter how pedigreed a project’s auspices. Netflix found that out the hard way last year when its own expensive Scorsese investment, “The Irishman,” came up empty at the Oscars despite a slew of nominations.

Keep in mind, Scorsese/DiCaprio are far from the only big names on Apple’s roster of exclusive and first-look deals: Ridley Scott, Richard Plepler, Sharon Horgan, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Alfonso Cuarón have each signed on over the past 12 months.

Having been outmaneuvered in the early going by the likes of Disney+ and Netflix, Apple can still be expected to play its A game and do some catching up down the line.