Former HBO CEO Richard Plepler Heading to Apple

The executive is near a deal to launch a production company based at the tech giant.
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for THR
Richard Plepler

Richard Plepler is finalizing his next act.

The former HBO CEO, who departed the premium cable network in February after a three-decade run, is in advanced discussions to sign an exclusive production pact with Apple TV+. A deal is expected to close before the end of the year.

Once an agreement is finalized, Plepler and his new company — RLP & Co. — would create original content for Apple's recently launched subscription streaming service, TV+. 

Apple declined comment.

Plepler, one of the most respected and highly regarded executives in the industry, departed HBO earlier this year in a move that stunned the TV community. His exit came nine months after AT&T's regime took over Time Warner and renamed it WarnerMedia. The newly merged company appointed former NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt to a massive role in March that gave him oversight of the premium cabler — best known for iconic originals like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones — as well as its forthcoming streaming service, HBO Max, and various other cable networks.

At the time, sources said Plepler cited HBO's shrinking autonomy within the expanded WarnerMedia portfolio as a major motivator and that he had a "gracious" conversation with WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey about departing before the chatter about a new top programming hire at the parent company had started.

Plepler's likely move to Apple is the latest chapter in the war for talent as media giants like Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia all launch their own direct-to-consumer platforms in a bid to compete with established players including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. 
 
Sources say Apple TV+ heads of worldwide video Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht are leading the charge to strike a production deal with Plepler, who has a long roster of ties to the industry's most sought-after creators and stars. Plepler would be the latest high-profile production pact secured by the duo and would join a roster that also includes the likes of Oprah Winfrey, A24, Sesame Workshop and the parent company of Peanuts.

Should the deal with Plepler close, he would become the latest executive from a linear outlet to head to streaming. ABC Studios president Patrick Moran recently inked a pod deal with Amazon Studios, which is now overseen by former NBC head of scripted Jennifer Salke; former Universal TV topper Bela Bajaria now has a key role at Netflix, as does ex-ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey; and Greenblatt, of course, oversees HBO Max. For their part, Van Amburg and Erlicht previously oversaw broadcast-focused indie studio Sony TV before heading to Apple.

Apple launched its TV+ offering on Nov. 1 with originals including The Morning Show, See, Dickinson and For All Mankind (all of which have been renewed for second seasons). The $5 monthly service has spent the past two years making deals with high-profile showrunners and stars alike as it looks to create its own library of originals rather than spend big on library titles.