Apple teams with Oprah Winfrey for original programming

Deal adds a marquee name to iPhone maker’s content efforts

Apple will start producing TV shows with Oprah Winfrey, bagging its biggest star yet for its push into content.

Under the “multiyear partnership”, the 64-year-old talk show host, producer and actor will develop a series of shows exclusively for Apple’s forthcoming video platform.

“Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programmes that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world,” Apple said on Friday.

The deal comes exactly a year after Apple hired two top Sony Pictures Television executives, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, signalling that it was getting serious about following Netflix and Amazon in developing its own TV shows and films. Since last June, Apple has struck deals with Hollywood names including La La Land director Damien Chazelle, actor-turned-producer Reese Witherspoon and Sixth Sense director M Night Shyamalan.


While Apple has not yet revealed how or when it plans to distribute its programming, people in Hollywood expect the first shows could debut next year. A likely venue is the company’s TV app, which brings together content from dozens of video services into a single, personalised platform, available on Apple TV boxes as well as iPhones and iPads.

Big budget

People familiar with the iPhone maker's content budget have said that it had more than $1 billion available to spend in its first year. That figure could rise as Apple's Los Angeles-based studios operation steps up its efforts to compete with Netflix, which spends $8 billion a year on content, as well as traditional players such as HBO.

Financial details for Apple’s partnership with Ms Winfrey were not disclosed.

Ms Winfrey became one of the most celebrated personalities on American television through her broadcast chat show. Her OWN network, in which Discovery Communications took a majority stake last year, also makes its content available for online streaming. Her broadcast deal with CBS’ 60 Minutes will also remain in place following the Apple partnership.

Gene Munster, a former Apple analyst turned tech investor at Loup Ventures, estimates that Apple will spent $4.2bn on original video content by 2022. Mr Munster estimates that Apple is "about five years behind" Netflix, which - like Apple today - had a slate of around a dozen original titles in production in 2013.

“Apple, once again, is late to the game but has an opportunity to change the game,” Mr Munster said. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018