Apple nears TV deal with Steven Spielberg for Amazing Stories

Director Steven Spielberg at the premiere of the HBO documentary film Spielberg in Los Angeles, on Sept 26, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Apple Inc is finalising a deal to make 10 new episodes of Steven Spielberg's 1980s science fiction anthology series Amazing Stories, landing a premiere Hollywood talent for its plunge into original TV programming, a source with knowledge of the discussions said.

The series would be produced for Apple by Spielberg's Amblin Television and Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal television production unit. Amazing Stories originally ran on the NBC broadcast network.

"We love being at the forefront of Apple's investment in scripted programming," NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said in a statement about the show's planned revival.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

The deal is the first to be made public since Apple hired veteran Sony executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg in June to expand the iPhone maker's push into original programming, a field crowded with streaming services and traditional networks.

It is unclear how people will be able to watch Amazing Stories or when it will debut. Apple has not divulged if it will put its own TV series in the iTunes Store, where it sells shows made by other companies, or on another platform.

The deal with Spielberg fits with a strategy Apple executives have outlined in meetings with Hollywood executives. Apple has emphasised in the discussions that it wants prestigious programming and to work with A-list actors, producers and writers, according to sources with knowledge of Apple's plans.

The company already has placed bids on other projects, including for a comedy series about morning television starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, sources said.

"They are looking for really high-end premium stuff they feel is creatively in line with the Apple brand," one source said of Apple's strategy.

The technology company is competing with several established players that have hooked big names, such as Netflix Inc and Time Warner Inc's HBO, plus newer entrants like Facebook Inc.

Apple has committed US$1 billion to start its programming push, the sources said. Netflix, by comparison, says it will spend up to US$7 billion on content next year.

The budget for Amazing Stories will be more than US$5 million per episode, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported that Apple had reached a deal for the series.

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