Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, the well-respected Heads of Sony Pictures Television have been headhunted by Apple to lead worldwide video programming. While this is being touted as a premature show of strength by the cash-rich business, it also shows a significant shift in television that will have Hollywood excited, and nervous in equal measure.
As streaming services continue to gain traction and quality original content remains a focal point for distributors who seek to differentiate themselves from non-content producing online channels, physical television stations, pressured by restricted investment are continuing to struggle.
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others are producing first-class content for a growing audience. House of Cards, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Man in the High Castle are just a few of the hit television series that streaming businesses are producing. Adding insult to injury, streaming businesses are more appealing to investors who are seeking to future-proof themselves in the entertainment sector, and overheads are significantly less than traditional television stations. In other words, streaming stations get more money externally, and are more cost-effective internally. Smart televisions are also decreasing the gap between the Internet and traditional televison, as viewers continue switching to online in droves.
Traditional television channels have been less than inspired in their approach, and slow to act in response to attacks from all sides by streaming services. Many channels have resorted to low budget reality TV shows to fill their programming schedule, even while their competition ploughs countless dollars into high-quality programming.
Meanwhile, over at Apple the welcoming of well-respected television senior executives is telling for another reason – Apple’s intent is now laid bare; executives of this caliber did not jump ship for any reason other than guaranteed outcomes of quality shows in a relatively short period of time. They will be eager to be involved in the evolution of the medium and be seen to be contributing to the digital transition of in-home entertainment. Interestingly, there is still no specific strategy for Apple to distribute its television offering, or whether it will focus instead on adding to its movie channel. Frankly, it doesn’t matter – the best people in the industry will be creating high-quality content, and the industry will continue to go from strength to strength – at least for those who embrace the evolution.