By Sebastian Herrera 

Former HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Plepler signed an exclusive production deal with Apple Inc.'s new TV streaming service, a five-year deal that underscores the tech giant's growing ambitions in entertainment.

The deal will include original series, feature films and documentaries for Apple TV+, its new streaming service, according to the company. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported in November that Apple and Mr. Plepler were in advanced discussions, and the New York Times first reported that they had reached a deal.

Mr. Plepler will be working with Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, the company's heads of world-wide video. Mr. Plepler launched Eden Productions, a new production company based in New York.

Apple's signing of Mr. Plepler gives its streaming service, which launched Nov. 1 with nine new programs, an experienced and well-known entertainment veteran, as it aims to compete with Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.'s dominant streaming platforms.

"I'm excited to work with Zack, Jamie and the standout team at Apple who have been deeply supportive of my vision for Eden from day one," Mr. Plepler said in a statement Thursday. "Apple is one of the most creative companies in the world, and the perfect home for my new production company and next chapter."

Mr. Plepler had been with HBO for nearly 30 years, the last six as its CEO. He left the company last February after it became clear that he would have less control under AT&T Inc., its new owner, than under prior owner Time Warner Inc.

Apple is in a race to beef up the offerings of its fledgling TV service, which is available for a price of $4.99 a month or free with some purchases of new company merchandise. Apple has struck agreements for shows with producers Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams and mogul Oprah Winfrey. Apple has also held talks with James Bond-franchise owner MGM Holdings Inc. and the Pac-12 Conference, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple has joined a heated competition with Netflix, Walt Disney Co. and other companies seeking to build streaming content, as viewers opt out of big cable television packages.

The company is also seeking to steer consumers toward subscription options for video, music and other services. Its goal is to surpass 500 million paid subscriptions next year. Apple currently has 450 million paid subscriptions, a 36% increase from the 330 million it reported in 2018.

Tripp Mickle contributed to this article.

Write to Sebastian Herrera at Sebastian.Herrera@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 02, 2020 20:27 ET (01:27 GMT)

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