You get an Apple content deal, and you get an Apple content deal, and you get an Apple content deal.
In its latest bid to develop a content portfolio that will allow it to compete with the Netflixes, Amazons and Hulus of the world (not to mention the traditional broadcast and cable TV networks), the tech giant has signed Oprah Winfrey to a "multiyear partnership."
In a terse, let's-cut-to-the-chase press release (three paragraphs! no boilerplate!) issued Friday, the iPhone manufacturer confirmed that Winfrey was its latest top-tier talent signing. Other recent creative minds and Hollywood stars who've inked content deals with Apple include Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, M. Night Shyamalan, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon ("The Big Sick") and two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant.
According to the release, Winfrey and Apple will partner to "create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world." Financial terms were not disclosed.
While Apple has yet to formulate its overall distribution scheme, it stands to reason that it will lean heavily on its newish TV app, which seamlessly pulls content from more than 60 video services into one easy-to-manage platform.
The Apple deal will not directly impact the work Winfrey does for Discovery's OWN, which the media maven launched back in January 2011. According to an executive with knowledge of the contract, the OWN deal is exclusive only in the realm of ad-supported cable; in other words, Winfrey is free and clear to not only produce but also appear in her upcoming Apple projects.
Indeed, Winfrey's arrangement with Discovery gives her the wherewithal to serve as a special correspondent to CBS' "60 Minutes." The self-made billionaire last fall appeared in a segment that aired on the newsmagazine's 50th season premiere; per Nielsen, Winfrey's "60 Minutes" debut was seen by nearly 15 million viewers. The year before that episode aired, Winfrey sat down with then-First Lady Michelle Obama in a CBS News primetime special that drew nearly 10 million viewers.
Winfrey serves as the CEO of OWN, which per Nielsen cable universe estimates reaches 74.5 million U.S. households, or 62 percent of all stateside TV homes. In December, Discovery bought an additional 24.5 percent stake in OWN by way of a $70 million payment to Oprah's Harpo Studios, thereby increasing its ownership stake in the network to more than 70 percent. As part of that deal, Oprah agreed to remain committed to OWN through at least 2025.
OWN finished the first quarter of this year ranked 33rd among all ad-supported cable networks in total viewers. The network's highest-rated series is the Tyler Perry drama "The Haves and the Have Nots," which in its fifth season is averaging 2.01 million viewers and a 0.5 in the adults 18-49 demo.
Winfrey began prepping the OWN launch while she was winding down her record-breaking syndicated talk show. Over the course of its 25-year run, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was America's most popular daytime chat show. The May 25, 2011 finale averaged a staggering 16.4 million viewers and an 11.5 household rating, making it the most-watched installment in 17 years.
According to Loup Ventures estimates, Apple this year is on pace to spend around $1.5 billion on original content, which is on par with Amazon's investment. With 125 million subscribers and a $7 billion development budget, Netflix is far ahead of the pack.
Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster project that Apple's investment in original TV-type content could rise to as much as $4.23 billion by 2022, although it will still be playing catch-up. Four years from now, Munster sees Netflix shelling out as much as $10.3 billion for its ever-expanding programming roster, while Amazon at that point is likely to nearly double Apple's originals budget.