Apple Wants Original Programming to Expand Its Music Service

  • Moves differentiate Apple from music-streaming rival Spotify
  • Producing more content marks strategy shift for Apple

Apple Inc. is taking additional steps to expand its $10-per-month music subscription service beyond just offering songs.

In a bid to differentiate itself from Spotify Ltd., which has about twice as many subscribers, Apple has been speaking with makers of original programming about buying rights to scripted shows and potentially movies, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The discussions were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal, which said Apple had spoken with marketing executives at movie studios and television networks about joining the Cupertino, California-based company to help promote the new material.

Apple’s initial plan is to produce a small number of high-quality shows, the person said. That’s a different approach than the one used by Netflix Inc. and Inc., which have spent heavily to create a wide-ranging library of original shows, documentaries and movies. Apple’s effort would expand on what it already has under way, including a series based on the life of rapper Dr. Dre, a competition show about makers of apps, and a spin off of “Carpool Karaoke” with talk-show host James Corden.

Apple’s foray into TV programming has had many fits and starts, ranging from making its own TV sets to trying to offer a cable-like package of channels. After years of on-and-off talks with producers, studios and agents, it began investing in original programming over the past 18 months. This is a strategy shift for Apple, which previously preferred to be a platform for other companies to release content rather than become a media company itself. But as Netflix and Amazon have built loyal subscriber bases with an expanding catalog of shows such as “The Crown” and “Transparent,” Apple has followed.

Apple Music, created in 2015, has 20 million subscribers, while Spotify had more than 40 million as of September 2016. The two companies offer nearly identical catalogs at the same price. In a bid to stand out, Apple plans to steadily increase the amount of video content available through the service, the person said. Spotify said in May it would make 12 original series, expanding the video offerings on the service.

As the world’s most valuable company, Apple has unmatched resources if it wants to outbid competitors for shows it thinks will boost the service. Its arrival surely will be welcomed by makers of TV shows in Hollywood who have already been enjoying a lucrative boom from the influx of new digital services bidding for their creations.