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By Joe Flint
Former HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Plepler is in advanced talks to sign an exclusive production deal with Apple Inc.'s new TV+ streaming service, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Under the terms of the agreement being discussed, Mr. Plepler's new company, RLP & Co., would create original content for Apple TV+. A deal could be finalized within the next few weeks, the person with knowledge of the talks said. It is still possible a deal may not materialize.
If Apple lands Mr. Plepler it would be getting one of the most well-regarded entertainment executives of the last decade. Under his watch as chief executive of HBO, the pay channel prospered, developing such hits as "Game of Thrones" and "Veep."
Apple's pursuit of Mr. Plepler is indicative of the battle for creative talent among Hollywood giants and the Silicon Valley disrupters such as Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. All have been spending heavily to woo producers and creators in anticipation of the so-called streaming wars, aimed at wooing viewers when many are tuning out of traditional broadcast and cable television.
Mr. Plepler left HBO last February after new owner AT&T Inc. took control of the company. He had been with HBO for nearly three decades, the last six years as its chief executive. Mr. Plepler left HBO when it was clear that under AT&T he would have less autonomy than he had enjoyed under prior-owner Time Warner Inc.
Mr. Plepler declined to comment on the Apple talks.
Apple TV+ chiefs Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht had been wooing Mr. Plepler for the past few weeks as the company looks to bring in more talent to make shows there, the person involved in the talks said. Producers Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams and former talk show queen Oprah Winfrey are already involved in making shows for Apple.
Apple's streaming service made its debut with nine new programs on Nov. 1 at a monthly price tag of $4.99 -- or free for a year with a purchase of a new iPhone, iPad or Mac. It will be launching more shows over the next several months as it enters an already crowded field. Disney's much-anticipated Disney+ streaming service launched Tuesday. Next year, WarnerMedia will unveil HBO Max and Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal will enter the field with Peacock.
All are competing with Netflix Inc., the dominant player in the market as well as with Amazon's Prime Video, Disney's Hulu and several other services.
Apple is looking to entertainment as a way to refashion itself as a services company as demand for its original products have slowed. The iPhone saw a 14% decline in sales for the fiscal year ended in September. Apple's total revenue was down 2% to $260.17 billion.
Apple is also making a push into original movies and recently f ormed a partnership with movie studio A24 for original films. Apple is formulating a theatrical distribution strategy as well.
Tripp Mickle contributed to this article.
Write to Joe Flint at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 12, 2019 16:23 ET (21:23 GMT)
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