Everyone thought Apple was making a big music play in 2014 when it bought Beats Electronics and launched a relationship with rapper and Beats co-founder Dr. Dre. But what began as a $3 billion acquisition of a music brand is apparently broadening to online TV as well.
Apple is taking a page out of Netflix and Amazon's playbook, creating an original TV series called "Vital Signs" featuring none other than Dre himself, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which quoted multiple anonymous sources on the matter. The show is being produced as a six-episode series and is described as dark, "semi-autobiographical," and brimming with sex.
Reports of the new show align with Apple's overall, dramatic expansion into services, from its streaming Apple Music product to a greater emphasis on iCloud. Amid investor concerns that Apple's iPhone sales may have peaked, online services offer an alternative way for Apple to make money aside from building hardware like desktops, laptops and tablets.
But hardware may ultimately be Apple's secret weapon in the TV wars. The company has a vast existing user base — it's sold more than 700 million iPhones alone — and it has proven willing to take advantage of that fact. In 2014, iPhone users discovered that Apple had placed U2's album, "Songs of Innocence," in their purchased items automatically -- a move that many did not appreciate.
Financially, at least, the move paid off, with 26 million people downloading the entire album. Before that, 14 million customers had purchased U2 music since the iTunes store was launched in 2003, Apple said.
Apple could take the same approach to its inaugural TV show, spreading Dre's story around the globe in an instant and not having to worry about signups or device compatibility or any of the myriad challenges that face other online streaming services. As my colleague Hayley Tsukayama wrote last year:
Mass appeal is really all Apple Music needs to succeed. It doesn't have to kill every other service; it just has to be good enough — with a few extras thrown in.
And if that's how "Vital Signs" is received, Apple would become a very big deal in television overnight.