Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.
NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.
A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” "Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business.
In June, the Cupertino, Calif., company named former Sony Pictures Television Presidents Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to oversee original series production. Apple has budgeted about $1 billion to spend on programming to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.com. The 10-episode order for “Amazing Stories” will be their first for Apple, which will make the series available for streaming.
Spielberg, who created “Amazing Stories,” is expected to serve as executive producer of the new version. Bryan Fuller, the writer-producer who most recently served as the first showrunner for “Star Trek: Discovery” on the CBS All Access streaming service, will oversee the series.
"It’s wonderful to be reunited with our colleagues Zack and Jamie in their new capacity at Apple," said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. "We love being at the forefront of Apple’s investment in scripted programming and can’t think of a better property than Spielberg’s beloved ‘Amazing Stories’ franchise with the genius of Bryan Fuller at the helm and more exciting creative partnerships to come."
“Amazing Stories” will probably be a major upgrade from the streamed original TV offerings Apple developed before Erlicht and Van Amburg came on board.
The company’s original video content currently consists of “Carpool Karaoke,” based on a popular segment seen on CBS’s “The Late Late Show With James Corden,” and a tech-themed reality competition series called “Planet of the Apps.” Neither was seen as a game-changer in the streaming video marketplace.
Apple executives believe they need quality programs that can live up to the high expectations consumers have for a company famed for polished products such as the iPhone. A series from Spielberg is seen as a step in that direction.
Although the first “Amazing Stories” won critical praise, it was not a ratings success when it first ran on NBC in a mid-1980s TV era that was far less fragmented and niche-oriented than today.
The sci-fi anthology format has demonstrated its appeal to streaming video users and cachet in the television industry. In September, the Netflix anthology series “Black Mirror” won Emmys for outstanding writing for a limited series movie or dramatic special and outstanding television movie for the episode “San Junipero.”
Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.