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Apple has hired two well-regarded TV execs to ramp up its original video plans

Sony’s Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg will head up video programming, reporting to Eddy Cue.

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New Apple video hires Zack Van Amburg, center, and Jamie Erlicht, right, with actress Glenn Close in 2012.
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for DirecTV
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

For years, Hollywood has heard rumors that Apple might want to make its own TV shows and movies. Here’s a sign that Apple might indeed be serious about this stuff: It has hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two of Sony’s top TV executives, to run video programming, a new job at Apple.

Both men are longtime Sony veterans, who have helped make some of TV’s best-known and most popular shows, including AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and ABC’s “Shark Tank.” At Sony, they jointly held the title of president; at Apple, they’ll report to media boss Eddy Cue.

Their hiring is the best indicator yet that Apple has real ambitions about making TV and other video content, and that it has plans for that stuff beyond using it to market its Apple Music service.

So far, Apple has just been dipping its toe into original video. It has financed one-off projects for the likes of Drake and Taylor Swift, and this month it debuted “Planet of the Apps,” a “Shark Tank”-for-developers show that has received underwhelming reviews.

This spring, Apple also delayed, without explanation, an extension of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” concept. That show’s debut has since been rescheduled for August.

In February, Cue said Apple wanted to “do things that are unique and cultural,” but wouldn’t explain what that meant. Apple still isn’t elaborating.

By hiring Erlicht and Van Amburg, Apple is signaling that it is taking a broad view of what it could make with its extensive resources.

At Sony, the duo got credit for shepherding “prestige TV” shows for cable, like FX’s “Justified” and “The Shield.” But they also made big broadcast TV shows with wide appeal, like NBC’s “The Blacklist” and ABC’s “The Goldbergs”; they also made “The Crown,” a sweeping historic melodrama, for Netflix.

“They are ambitious, talented guys, who want to make a lot of money and want to make their mark on the world,” said an industry veteran who knows the pair. “It’s a perfect job for them.”

Of note: Traditional studios and networks have wanted to hire Erlicht and Van Amburg in the past, but couldn’t because they were under contract. But Sony, which has been overhauling the top ranks of its entertainment unit, hadn’t re-signed the duo to new contracts, and their current deals expire this summer.

I don’t normally do canned quotes but I’ll make an exception here, since getting anything on the record from Apple about its video ambitions is better than nothing.

Cue: “Jamie and Zack are two of the most talented TV executives in the world and have been instrumental in making this the golden age of television. We have exciting plans in store for customers and can’t wait for them to bring their expertise to Apple — there is much more to come.”

Erlicht: “It will be an honor to be part of the Apple team. We want to bring to video what Apple has been so successful with in their other services and consumer products — unparalleled quality."

Van Amburg: “Apple has a relentless focus on delighting customers with their products. We will bring that same intention to Apple’s programming and we could not be more excited about what lies ahead."

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