Former HBO chief makes strategic hires for Apple TV+

From Anna Nicolaou’s “Exclusive: Richard Plepler recruits NY literary agent Heather Karpas to production venture” ($) posted on Financial Times Thursday:

Former HBO boss Richard Plepler has hired a well-connected New York literary agent for his new company, said two people familiar with the matter, as he builds a production hub to make movies and television shows for Apple.

Heather Karpas, from talent agency ICM Partners, is set to move to Mr Plepler’s Eden Productions later this month. Demand for book adaptations has soared as the biggest Hollywood companies scour the market for fresh intellectual property that can be packaged into streamable content…

Mr Plepler is also in talks to hire Josh Tyrangiel, the former head of Vice News, to produce documentaries and other programming for his new company, said people familiar with the matter.

Mr Plepler is one of the most well-regarded names in Hollywood, having helped cement HBO’s reputation for high-quality, cutting-edge programming including book adaptations such as Game of Thrones. He left the company last year as part of an exodus after HBO’s parent company Time Warner was acquired by AT&T.

My take: Apple continues to pour money and talent into exclusive programming for Apple TV+, although not at the rate of Netflix and perhaps with more precision.

BTW, I too left HBO’s parent company Time Warner as part of an exodus (before it sold Time and Fortune to Better Homes and Gardens). I’ve also worked with Josh Tyrangiel (who wore his baseball caps backward when he was a boy wonder at Time Magazine, before he took over Bloomberg Businessweek and before Mike Bloomberg’s return forced him out). And for many years I was represented in my contract negotiations with Time Inc. by a ICM literary agent (one who has, alas, since left the agency).


  1. Paul Brindze said:
    I spent 30+ years in the entertainment business.

    Bringing Plepler on board will, in my humble opinion, prove, over time, to be a genius move for AppleTv+. These things take years to mature, but there is a reason people today are willing to pay 50% to 100% more for HBO than other services, and much of that can be traced back to Plepler.

    February 13, 2020
    • Fred Stein said:
      Thanks for your insights, Paul.

      Each of these genius moves reinforces my faith in Tim Cook. He makes so many of these wise incremental moves, ensuring long-term growth.

      February 13, 2020
      • Jacob Feenstra said:
        Cook also learns from his mistakes. Hiring John Browett (of Dixons) for retail was one of Cook’s first major mistakes. But he corrected it and never made such a major hiring mistake again (I don’t think).

        Then again, Steve Jobs also made his mistakes in hiring. Hiring Cook wasn’t one of them. Hiring John Sculley was—by Jobs’ fullest admission.

        On Cook, I don’t think that Steve Jobs would have been even remotely as successful during has second period (until his death) at Apple if he hadn’t hired Cook. I think retroactively we can see how vital Cook was from his start at Apple. It was a Lennon-McCartney synergy, I would venture to say.

        February 14, 2020
    • Dan Scropos said:
      I couldn’t agree more. These bozos prematurely calling Apple TV+ a failure should be fired. But, remember, they also called the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods failures, too.

      I’m not one to make predictions, but I can’t help but think that the next two iterations of HomePod are going to gain traction and begin to dominate the upper tier of that market. Apple rarely fails and I think John Giannandrea will help make that device special in some way. Siri shad already become much better in a very short time. I believe it’s mainly because of him. HomePod will follow suit.

      February 13, 2020
      • Gregg Thurman said:
        I can’t help but think that the next two iterations of HomePod are going to gain traction and begin to dominate the upper tier of that market.

        I can’t agree more. Been saying Apple has something special in mind for the integration of Apple TV, Apple TV+, Apple Music (and maybe Apple Arcade) and HomePod for a while. I just don’t know what that ‘special’ could be.

        February 13, 2020
      • Kirk DeBernardi said:
        Sorry, this a bit off topic, but since you brought up the HomePod’s playbook as a competitive all-knowing info-orb with the capable Giannandrea leading the way, I maintain it doesn’t need to grab that brass ring since everyone seems to think that its on a path to ultimate failure if it doesn’t. The cry’s of overpricing are over-amplified also.

        Allow me to elucidate on the HomePod. I currently have eleven in my home (including garage — one even in my laundry room). Some are as individual speakers, others are paired for a stereo setup. I will be getting maybe two more to finally flesh out the sound completely through out my home.

        Without going into a deep dive, I can best say that utilizing HomePods for sound (whatever your sound needs are) allows the room, in a sense, to become the speaker. The sound simply becomes omnipresent around you. If properly placed, wherever you wander around your abode is akin to having headphones on because the sound remains the same — full, balanced and present, yet without any constraints.

        About the “smarts” — Siri has its limitations. That’s no secret. This strange expectation for your smart-speaker to be the all-knowing info orb we all imagine from our sci-fi dreams kind of misses the point of sound in the home. Rarely would I expect to ask something like the name of Einstein‘s third cousin. Siri is completely capable now of helping me with curated info that actually means something in my everyday life and if you have a “whole-house” setup, you simply state your request in the air and Siri will pop up wherever you happen to be.

        To be blunt — it plays sound. Strong AND accurate. Soothing, balanced, real sound.

        Expensive? During the holidays HomePod pricing dropped to $200 at certain retailers. Assuming with an average sized home you would need 6-8 for whole-house coverage. $1,200-$1,600 for a complete supreme sound system for your home controlled by your  WATCH?

        See my point. THIS is HomePod’s true capability and designed intent. Keep the sound small or go big.

        Oh yeah…the smarts will come.

        February 13, 2020
        • John Konopka said:
          You have eleven of them!! Wow.

          I just got two of them few months ago. I got them for a little over $200 each on eBay. The sound is great. Better than expected. It is hard to judge these in the big, noisy Apple store. We are in a rental while we renovate our home. This an awkward space for speakers here, but when we move back I may get four more for two more rooms.

          I rarely use Siri with these. I would but between the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch there is a lot of competition for my call to Siri.

          February 15, 2020
      • David Emery said:
        I think Apple needs to much more thoroughly seed the home automation market. Perhaps there should be a startup kit, something like Apple has for iOS apps through Swift/XCode. Add to that some funding for best products, even including being sold in Apple stores

        Home automation has yet to achieve critical mass for interoperable items at a reasonable price. (And I write this as someone who had a bunch of X10 stuff at one time, still sitting in a box in the attic. Ultimately, that stuff wasn’t quite reliable enough, but that was before ubiquitous home WiFi, X10 ran signals over power lines.)

        February 13, 2020
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    Has anyone noticed that as much as we honored Sir Jony Ives and his design work, since he left Apple nobody seems to care?

    February 13, 2020
    • Kirk DeBernardi said:
      @ Gregg T. —

      (BTW — “Ive” — not “Ives” — common mistake)

      Just happened to think of that myself the other day, Gregg.

      God bless Sir Jony and all that he has wrought, yet his current design chops will probably never have the worldwide exposure that he so richly deserved and enjoyed purely designing for Apple. One would think that this would be a Holy Grail of any designer’s heart.

      Quite a thing to give up — no matter how successful you personally become.

      Design on, Sir Ive.

      February 13, 2020
      • Jerry Doyle said:
        @Gregg Thurman: Your comment has high merit.

        It is presumptuous of me to think all folk feel the same about Sir Jony’s absence as do you and I. I’m sure there are some who miss Jony.

        We miss Steve Jobs. We don’t miss Sir Jony Ive.

        I asked myself often, why is this so? It’s not that we do not appreciate Sir Jony Ive, for we do deeply. I believe the reason we miss Steve Jobs is that he never left Apple. Steve stayed with Apple until death. Conversely, Sir Jony walked away. I believe that’s the reason we have this different feeling toward Steve Jobs than we have toward Sir Jony Ive.

        If death had not come to take Steve away, he still would be at Apple today dreaming up new, innovative and experimental projects.

        Sir Jony chose to leave the building; and, he is gone.

        @Kirk DeBernardi: I agree with all you write in your comments.

        I do not believe anyone can question Sir Jony Ive’s “design chops!” I also believe that Sir Jony never will achieve the level of world-wide exposure and bask in the spotlight as he did while at Apple.

        Jony needed Apple more than Apple needed Jony. Apple needed Steve more than Steve needed Apple. Remember, Steve never walked from Apple.

        The governing board and John Sculley emasculated Steve of all operational influence (and operational duties) over Apple. Sculley and his cohorts essentially, booted Steve out-of-Apple. Steve did not leave voluntarily. Steve did not walk away from Apple.

        Steve came back to Apple, because he “loved” Apple. Steve had ambivalent feelings about coming back to Apple because he was running a wildly successful company, Pixar.

        Pixar initially began in 1979 as part of the Lucasfilm computer division, known as “The Graphics Group.” It later was spinoff as a public corporation in 1986 through funding from Steve Jobs. Steve made sure that he became the majority shareholder (Steve learned from his Apple experience of being booted to be the majority shareholder).

        Apple was imploding. The governing board fired Gil Amelio. I remember clearly the day in the summer of 1997 that the talking heads on CNBC reported Apple was going to go bankrupt.

        Sidebar: On that day I bought $3,500 worth of Apple stock for my daughter. I had no idea that Steve would return. My daughter never has touched that stock, other than to take the dividends and buy more shares. Today, that $3,500 initial investment is $2,890,754.95.

        Back to Steve & Jony: Apple was on life support. The board literally begged Steve to come back. Steve, though, was running Pixar. But he loved Apple and did not want to see it go under. Steve came back to Apple not to run it as its CEO (as he was the CEO of Pixar), but to save Apple from going under until the governing board could find a new CEO. Suddenly, Steve was running two companies. One was dying, the other wildly successful.

        The Apple governing board later begged Steve to come back as Apple’s CEO. With vacillating and deep questioning feelings Steve had to make a choice: Pixar or Apple. Stay with a wildly successful Pixar, or return to his lost love to save her from demise.

        We all know that Steve returned to his chosen heart’s desire. There-in lies the rub between Steve’s departure and Sir Jony Ive’s departure.

        Steve never walked away from Apple. He never really left Apple. Today, Steve is Apple and Apple is Steve Jobs.

        February 13, 2020
    • John Konopka said:
      Gruber had an interesting observation. He pointed out that when Steve and Jony got together in the late 1990s they came up with the candy color iMac. This was a fully 3 dimensional object that had lots of room for design. The shape is still interesting to look at. The bright colors changed the appearance of all sorts of products for years, the face had a large frame that was Jony’s canvas.

      By contrast, the iPad and iPhone have almost been reduced to a slab of glass that relies entirely on software for its appearance. There is no longer much of a canvas on which John Ive can perform.

      February 14, 2020
      • Kirk DeBernardi said:
        @ John K. —

        Very interesting point. Things are — and will be — probably smaller.

        A force to ensure and allow good design to be more potent.

        February 15, 2020

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