Under the pact, Winfrey, 64, and her Harpo Inc. will create original content for the tech giant. That includes film, television, apps, podcasts, books and other content that could easily be distributed on Apple’s all-encompassing platform. In line with the megaproducer’s longtime business model, Harpo will retain 100 percent ownership of all content created for Apple.
While Netflix poached Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy from their longtime homes at ABC Studios and 20th Century Fox Television with nine-figure deals in an effort to own more of its originals, Apple’s deal with Winfrey is part of a larger push to reach a broad audience.
While Apple has yet to reveal how any of its 12 scripted originals (so far) will be released, the Winfrey pact gives the iPhone maker another recognizable face for what will be a star-studded platform and a draw for her significant female fan base.
In addition to financial compensation and content ownership, the deal will offer Winfrey a streaming platform to expand her brand reach as she, too, courts a younger demographic amid a rapidly changing media landscape.
“That’s how both will benefit: Oprah will expand her presence into the tech universe, which is where TV is going. This is her entry into that business,” says Henry Schafer, evp at brand management company Q Scores.
Schafer notes that Winfrey will not have to compete with brands like Murphy and Rhimes and instead will be in a “highly recognizable situation with the most visible tech company in the world.” For her part, Winfrey will remain as chairman and CEO of Discovery Communications-backed cable network OWN after extending her deal through at least 2025.
While she is still exclusive to OWN on the cable side — her 2008 deal with HBO expired long before 2017 telepic The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — she could opt to return to series regular work or star in a film for Apple.
There are only two things that Winfrey’s OWN deal precludes her from doing for Apple: a podcast under the “SuperSoul” banner and a daily talk show. Sources note that Winfrey is not interested in returning to the grind of the latter and would rather focus on unscripted projects that are in line with the brand that turned her into a household name.
This story first appeared in the June 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.