It’s been clear that Apple has been looking to expand into the world of original content, and now The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the company has struck a deal to revive the Steven Spielberg anthology series Amazing Stories. The filmmaker’s Amblin Entertainment production company will be producing 10 episodes of the new series with NBCUniversal’s television production unit, with a budget of $5 million earmarked per episode. No details about Spielberg’s specific involvement as a director are mentioned, but according to the report, he will likely serve as an executive producer on the new series. Hannibal’s Bryan Fuller will serve as showrunner.
The original Amazing Stories, which ran from 1985 to 1987, was Spielberg’s attempt to create an updated Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Each of the episodes would tell a different story focused on the scary, magical, or horrific, from directors like Robert Zemeckis, Tobe Hooper, a young Brad Bird, and Spielberg himself. The series went on to win five Emmys over its two-year run, though it was canceled by NBC after its second season.
For Apple, this represents the first big move in what is reported to be a $1 billion investment in original content over the coming year. This past June, the company hired former Sony Pictures Television heads Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to spearhead the effort. While at Sony, the duo oversaw shows like Breaking Bad, so bringing them into the fold can be seen as a sign that Apple understands the type of industry relationships and creative dynamics that are required to develop a robust and diverse slate of television.
The biggest question, however, remains distribution itself. With streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu moving so boldy into original programming, it’s clear that exclusive and original content will be as vital to those services as hit shows have traditionally been to legacy networks. As of yet, Apple doesn’t really have a Netflix equivalent in place. Some of the company’s tentative first efforts like Carpool Karaoke are available as part of Apple Music, but it’s hard to imagine someone like Spielberg closing a deal for Amazing Stories to be nothing more than a value-add to Apple’s music ambitions.
The intent is no doubt for something much grander in scope. If the trend toward exclusivity with streaming music and programming has demonstrated anything, it’s that customers are all too willing to buy into service ecosystems to get the content they’re eager for. In that sense, creating a library of programming that is only available from Apple services (and likely only on Apple devices) wouldn’t just make sense — it may represent the most comprehensive expression of Cupertino’s larger vision.