Television executive Richard Plepler is credited as the man who helped HBO become the prestige network it is today, helping launch titles like Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies and overseeing HBO’s transition to streaming. Now, after departing HBO earlier this year, he’ll take his talents to Apple where he’s set to produce original TV shows, films, and documentaries exclusively for Apple TV Plus, according to The New York Times.
The five-year contract is with Plepler’s company, Eden Productions. Plepler was in final talks with Apple as of November, The Verge confirmed at the time. The new deal would give Plepler the ability to make the type of entertainment he wanted but that he felt he could no longer do at HBO following AT&T’s purchase of WarnerMedia.
Plepler left HBO nearly a year ago, following a 25-year stint at the company. His decision to part ways with the company felt like foreshadowing for what HBO was about to become and the end of an era. In the time since he’s left, multiple other HBO executives have departed. It’s unclear if any of them will join Plepler in his new venture.
“It was instantaneously clear to me that I had a wonderful and very privileged run at HBO and I wasn’t going to be able to duplicate that again,” Plepler told The New York Times. “And I didn’t want to try to duplicate that again. It felt very clear to me that I just wanted to do my own thing.”
HBO is currently undergoing a cultural shift that reportedly has insiders and industry members nervous. AT&T chief operating officer and WarnerMedia head, John Stankey, told HBO staff that output was going to increase by a reported 50 percent after the Time Warner acquisition. The news came as WarnerMedia geared up to launch its own streaming service, HBO Max, in an attempt to compete with Netflix, Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, and Apple.
Plepler referred to the company being at an “inflection point,” and he cited the changing management and company priorities as part of the reason he decided to leave in a memo sent to HBO staffers in March. Still, he doesn’t see Apple and HBO as competitors, even though, in many ways, they are since they’re both vying for subscribers and eyeballs in a crowded space.
“There is plenty of room out there for everybody to do well and for everybody to produce their version of good content, and I don’t think of it for two minutes as rivaling HBO,” he told the Times.
Plepler may not want to re-create what he did at HBO, but Apple may want him to bring that level of success to TV Plus. Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly said the company is trying to make prestigious original content and, despite mediocre reviews from critics, Cook and other executives are reportedly very happy with the reception to Apple TV Plus’ first wave of shows. The company also received its first Golden Globe nominations, thanks to The Morning Show, the service’s flagship series.
Now that he’s at Apple, Plepler is working with a company that has a sizable budget and is looking to take bets on original programming that will grab attention and subscribers. It could be a match made in heaven for both.