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Apple is ready for takeoff.
The tech giant has handed out a nine-episode order for Masters of the Air, the follow-up drama to HBO’s limited series Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Additionally, Apple is officially launching its own internal studio, making the series the first that it will own in-house. Apple’s Worldwide Video heads Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht will also oversee the unnamed studio in a move that brings them back to their roots as head of Sony Pictures TV.
Sources say HBO released the series — focused on historian Donald L. Miller’s nonfiction book Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany — ages ago and before WarnerMedia became its new corporate parent. The decision, sources say, was based on the price tag for the series, which is said to clock in at an estimated $250 million. Also a factor was the fact that DVD sales were largely responsible for turning pricey awards winners The Pacific and Brothers into financial hits. With the DVD market imploding amid the explosion of streaming, sources say HBO opted to dedicate those resources elsewhere. (The cabler has continued to be an aggressive buyer amid the arms race for top talent, stars and packages.)
Masters focuses the aerial wars through the eyes of enlisted men of the Eighth Air Force — known as the men of the Mighty Eighth — who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep. The drama arrives two decades after HBO won six Emmys (out of a whopping 19 nominations) for Band of Brothers and its 2010 sequel, The Pacific, which scored 24 noms and a leading eight wins.
All of the producers behind both Brothers and Pacific are slated to return for the new installment. Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Steven Spielberg will exec produce for Hanks and Goetzman’s Playtone and the latter’s Amblin Television, respectively. Amblin TV’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey will co-exec produce alongside Playtone’s Steven Shareshian. Band of Brothers grad John Orloff will pen the script and also co-EP the series alongside Graham Yost (Justified). The latter also worked on both previous shows in the franchise. The third miniseries in the WWII saga had been in talks for months after The Pacific’s success. The third show was officially put in development back in January 2013 at HBO.
This is Apple’s second show with Spielberg and joins episodic anthology Amazing Stories at the tech company, which will officially enter the scripted originals market with its first four shows available Nov. 1 when its TV+ launches. All told, Masters is the third international drama series, joining Pachinko and Shantaram.
As for Apple’s in-house studio, the move had been considered not an “if” but a “when.” As former studio chiefs at Sony TV, Van Amburg and Erlicht are well-versed in the importance of having an internal studio that not only oversees production but owns the programming. Producing its programming in-house will monetize Apple’s content and eliminate having to pay expensive licensing fees to such outside studios as Warner Bros. TV. Of all of Apple’s 20-plus shows already greenlit and in the works, the tech giant did not own a single one of them. The industry has continued to make ownership a top priority amid the talent wars and rising costs for prolific showrunners and top TV packages. All the broadcast networks, for example, largely buy from their affiliated studios. Forthcoming streamers, too — like Disney+, Peacock and HBO Max — are also buying predominantly from their in-house studios in a bid to own and better monetize their content amid an era of fierce competition and dwindling linear ratings.
Updated, 9:05 a.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the studio had a name. It does not.
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