This is what Apple gets for writing "crazy checks" to talent

"Apple is shuffling showrunners on its much-anticipated morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon."  —Variety

Hollywood producer Jason Blum, best known for such low-budget horror hits as "Get Out" and "Paranormal Activity," saw this coming.

At SXSW last month, Blum was asked by Recode's Peter Kafka why nobody—not the studios, not the "streamers"— was copying his hugely successful low-budget model. I've transcribed the relevant section below:

BLUM: The studios won’t make low-budget movies because they’re not built to make low-budget. Sill the best distribution in the world is done by studios.

KAFKA: The machinery is built for these big things.

BLUM: The streamers eventually may, but right now the streamers are overpaying talent to compete [with the studios], and so If you’re going to do a low-budget movie, you’re definitely not going to do it for Netflix. The reason people are working for Netflix right now is because they paying an enormous amount of money to these people up front.

KAFKA: You hear the stories of the streamers overpaying. Netflix writes big checks. Amazon writes big checks. Apple is now writing these crazy checks. Even HBO, which pays well, says “Uh, we can’t keep up with that money.” I assume that filters down to you.

BLUM: It filters down to us. The market for talent, for artists making TV and movies, is super wonky right now because it’s not correlated to profitability.

Apple, Blum suggests, may already be infected with Hollywood's DNA:

BLUM: The biggest reason [the low-budget model] is not replicated is because Hollywood is totally connected to ego, and ego does not allow for low-budget movies. It’s so tied into the DNA of Hollywood, especially at the representation level. Agents, Lawyers, Managers, but also the artists. Everyone cannot disassociate from “If I have a hit, I should make more expensive movies.”

Link to the video here.

Thanks to friend-of-the-blog Richard Wanderman for the pointer. Blum, he says, "is right on the money about this."

See also: The Sony guys just signed their 6th TV series for Apple


  1. Richard Wanderman said:
    While I’m not a fan of Blum’s various movies, I think his commentary was fascinating given the success of Netflix and Apple’s current push to get into content creation. I don’t think Apple should be copying him; I just think his commentary about “streamers” over-paying for talent is telling given Apple’s current push.

    I didn’t think it was a good investment for Apple to buy Carpool Karaoke after the novelty had worn off and Planet of the Apps doesn’t seem to have done well. Yes, they’ve brought in some very serious and talented folks both in production and talent but no doubt Apple has over paid for all of it because they’re late to the game and they have deep pockets.

    I’m not seeing how Apple succeeds here (yet).

    April 4, 2018
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    Don’t feel bad Richard. Few of the “experts” have viewed any of Apple’s products/initiatives successful right out of the gate. Then, 3 to 4 years later, people ask themselves how they could live without it. This is not to say every Apple initiative is successful, but the odds are in favor of Apple.

    April 4, 2018
    • Richard Wanderman said:
      True enough. I was one of the folks who initially got mad at Netflix for threatening to dump the DVD business before they had any content on streaming. Still, it was bad communication on their part.

      April 4, 2018
  3. David Drinkwater said:
    Hm. And I thought this was gonna be about vesting RSUs with upper level management.

    April 4, 2018

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