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Apple won’t buy Netflix, but will do something ‘unique’ with TV streaming

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SVP Eddy Cue has ambitious plans

Apple is a company that wants to have its hand in all of the candy jars, but its next obvious move is building up its TV empire. CEO Tim Cook, CFO Luca Maestri and senior vice president Eddy Cue have no made no attempt to hide that fact. During a conversation with Recode, Cue debuted the first trailer for Apple’s reality TV series about the behind-the-scenes world of app development and addressed where the company’s future lies in regards to TV.

The big question, and one that Cue has opted out of talking about during most of his rare interviews, is whether or not Planet of the Apps paves the way for Apple to purchase a company like Netflix. Apple, like Disney, is a company that builds itself through acquisitions. Apple bought the company Cue, a company that builds personal assistants, to reportedly upgrade its own AI help bot, Siri, in October 2013. The company bought Beats, Dr. Dre’s company dedicated to audio technology and headphones, in 2014 for $3 billion. Effectively, if Apple wants to build upon its brand by introducing new features or tools, it buys a company that’s already put in the legwork.

With that knowledge in hand, the question, “Will Apple buy a company like Netflix?” in order to kickstart its own TV division, was met with a pretty definitive no from Cue.

We're trying to do things that are unique and cultural. ... We think we have a real opportunity in the TV space to do that with Apple Music and shows, and the things we're trying to do aren't being done by anybody else. ... So yes, to the extent if we wanted to do what everybody else is doing, then you’re right, we might be better off buying somebody or doing that.

But that’s not what we're trying to do. We are trying to do something that’s unique, takes advantage of our platforms and that really brings culture to it. ... Right now, we think we can do that with partners like Ben, and we don’t see that anywhere else.

Cue’s views on the future of TV at Apple come just a week after Jimmy Iovine, a longtime record producer and overseer of Apple Music at the company, gave Variety a similar answer. In the profile, Iovine said that Apple was deeply invested in entertainment and building an entertainment universe, but it wasn’t going to acquire a company like Netflix, nor try to become a stand-alone subscription-based streaming service in the same regard, anytime soon.

“We’re trying to make the music service a cultural point of reference, and that’s why we’re making video,” Iovine said. “We’re making video for our Apple Music customers and our future customers.

“To me it’s all one thing. It’s Apple Music, and it happens to have video and audio … It has nothing to do with what Netflix is doing.”

Despite keeping the shows on Apple Music, which the company surely hopes will boost subscriptions, Apple is heavily invested in moving forward with its series. It wants to compete with Amazon — an e-retailer giant who moved into film and television, taking home multiple Emmys, Golden Globes and an Oscar nomination — and it’s going to do so by keeping its series exclusive to its music streaming app.

Prior to Cue’s conversation with Recode and Iovine’s comments in his Variety profile, Cook and Maestri reiterated during an investors call this month that the company was going to test the waters and see how subscribers react.

“We’ve put our toe in the water doing some original content for Apple Music and that will be rolling out throughout the year,” Cook said during the call. “We’re learning from that, and we’ll go from there.”

Apple has previously said it is interested in developing original, “premium” series like Westworld on HBO or Stranger Things on Netflix. Besides Planet of the Apps, it is also working on a scripted series that’s semi-autobiographical and based on Dr. Dre’s life. The company also purchased the rights to Carpool Karaoke, a popular segment on James Corden’s The Late Late Show that features the comedian driving through Los Angeles and singing songs with celebrities.

More announcements about what plans Apple has for TV series are expected to roll out over the course of the year. Planet of the Apps will be available to stream through Apple Music soon. Apple Music subscriptions currently cost $9.99 a month.