Apple is reportedly making a Band of Brothers spin-off and launching its own in-house studio to do it. The Hollywood Reporter says the studio, which does not yet have a name, will be run by Apple’s new Worldwide Video heads, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht.
Van Amburg and Erlicht previously ran Sony Pictures Television, another studio known for building TV shows. It’s not a surprise that the two would launch a studio for Apple. As THR notes, “the move had been considered not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’.” Apple’s current slate of programs for TV+, which launches November 1, 2019, are all owned by other studios. Apple doesn’t own the programs—it merely licenses them, and that’s costly.
Apple’s reported plan to start producing shows in house will likely drive down costs and allow Apple to reap significantly more revenue. THR reports that the first show produced will be Masters of the Air, a follow up to Band of Brothers and The Pacific. While those World War II dramas focused on ground troops, Masters of the Air will be focused on—well, it’s in the title isn’t it?
The show, like its predecessors, will also be produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (Apple is also working with Spielberg on the anthology series Amazing Stories), according to THR.
Naturally, more shows are a good thing, and this show has a tremendous pedigree that should make it something to look forward too for WWII buffs and the now-grown college boys who liked to leave the Band of Brother DVDs on a prominent shelf in their dorm rooms to show they were deeper than the average college boy.
However, this also continues the absolutely terrifying and disturbing trend of vertical integration in TV and film. Disney, Warner Bros., Netflix, and the other big studios and streamers have all started producing their content in house and then distributing it exclusively on their own individual apps and services. This means you have to juggle multiple subscriptions if you want to stay in the pop culture loop.
Vertical integration in Hollywood was previously frowned on—in the ‘40s, Hollywood studios voluntarily gave up their right to own the theatres showing their films to avoid lawsuits and regulations.
In the past 10 years, we’ve seen Hollywood slowly return to the idea of owning every single aspect of a piece of media and doing so successfully. Netflix, a digital media upstart with Silicon Valley roots, has given Hollywood a blueprint to profitability at the cost of audiences’ wallets.
But vertical integration is also dangerous because it dramatically cuts down on the kinds of stories told and the kinds of people telling them. Apple leaping into making movies and TV is certainly fascinating, and the bits and pieces of most shows we’ve seen so far don’t seem terrible. However, the company has reportedly already started self-censoring its content. It sure seems like it’s joining Disney and other more established studios in a race to find the most basic and inoffensive programs for the widest reach. That’s terrifying.