Unnamed sources are telling The Hollywood Reporter that the fight for distribution rights to the James Bond films just got two new contenders: Apple and Amazon. Up until now Warner Bros. have been in the lead with the best bid, but let's be honest. Apple and Amazon have deeper pockets.
Image: MGM / Eon Productions
Two of the world's biggest tech companies entering a bidding war for a franchise as iconic as James Bond is a big deal. If the reports are true, the long awaited shifting of Hollywood's control over the movie business north to Silicon Valley could be unfolding before our eyes. And while we've already seen Amazon Studios make some serious moves in the movies — the company claimed two Academy Awards for Manchester by the Sea — we don't yet know much about what Apple might want to do. Here's THR with some clues:
Sources say newly arrived executives Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht are spearheading the effort on Apple's behalf. Given their background (the pair served as co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television and shocked the industry when they announced in June that they were leaving for Apple), this would suggest that Apple is interested in cutting a larger rights deal or acquiring full ownership to exploit Bond's largely unmined TV potential. Valuation of the franchise may be anywhere between $2 billion and $5 billion, says an insider.
Let's get one thing straight: With over $US260 billion ($325 billion) in cash on hand, Apple has the money to buy the James Bond distribution rights. It has the money to buy the entire franchise if MGM and Eon Productions, the British studio that produces the films, decide to sell it. Things get even more interesting from there.
MGM and Eon Productions control the James Bond franchise, and they're also the ones who are accepting pitches from five major studios as well as, reportedly, Apple and Amazon. But MGM and Eon do not distribute the films. Since Casino Royale hit theatres in 2006, Sony Pictures Entertainment has had that privilege. Sony's contract to distribute the films expired in 2015. Sony has also paid a huge chunk to market the films, and you know that it's no accident that Daniel Craig used Sony phones and cameras in many of the recent Bond films. Famously, Craig and director Sam Mendes refused multi-million product placement deals from both Sony and Samsung for Spectre, because they thought Bond wouldn't want to use an Android phone.
This brings us back to Apple. Not only would winning the distribution rights to the Bond films give Apple a huge foothold in a very profitable and iconic movie franchise, but it would potentially give them a new way to market Apple products and service. Just imagine the scene where James Bond jumps out of a plane and checks the altitude on his Apple Watch as he flies towards the ground. Or wouldn't it be cool if Bond busts out the latest iPhone and shows off the device's new augmented reality features for some spy crap. Or, in a more down-to-Earth fashion, think about an iTunes exclusive for downloading the next Bond movie in 4K UHD. Apple could almost charge customers any price it wanted to charge.
All that said, you can imagine Amazon wanting James Bond for all the same reasons. The company already has experience producing, marketing and distributing films. Its massive customer base of Prime subscribers would be a captive audience for James Bond content, even a series version that invites people to binge watch like Man in the High Castle only with Bond villains instead of Nazis, if licensing rights are also on the table. It is hard to imagine Bond busting out an Amazon Echo or a Kindle Fire for his spy activities, however.
While imagining what Apple and Amazon might do with James Bond is a fun thought exercise, for now, it's just that. It's an idea that the companies are reportedly pursuing. It might never happen. But seriously, just think about the weird future where James Bond wears an Apple Watch and Beats headphones. It's almost s ridiculous as the idea that Bond would use a Sony Xperia phone. Which he did!