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Apple, Moving In on Prestige TV, Poaches Two Sony Executives


So far, Apple has only dipped a toe in the original video waters. In February, the company announced several shows designed to distinguish Apple Music, its subscription streaming service, from competitors like Spotify. One offering, “Planet of the Apps,” is a reality show about iPhone app developers that counts Gwyneth Paltrow as a judge.

So far, Hollywood has not been impressed. Variety, the entertainment trade news outlet, called “Planet of the Apps,” which debuted this month, “a bland, tepid, barely competent knock-off of ‘Shark Tank.’”

Among technology companies, Apple is late to the original video party. Way out in front are Netflix, which is spending about $6 billion on programming this year, and Amazon, expected to spend $4.5 billion. In the meantime, Apple — with more than $250 billion in cash — has explored several Hollywood strategies; at one point it was seriously considering the purchase of Imagine Entertainment, a film and television company founded by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.

Mr. Erlicht and Mr. Van Amburg are known as builders. When they became senior executives at Sony’s television business in 2002, the studio was working to re-establish itself after severe cutbacks had essentially left the division for dead.

Working with their boss at the time, Steve Mosko, the two men were able to make inroads against more entrenched rivals by spotting the cable industry’s move toward prestige dramas. Sony quickly sold shows like “Rescue Me” and “The Shield” to FX.

The loss of Mr. Erlicht and Mr. Van Amburg comes at an awkward time for Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has signaled that it wants to expand its television business under Tony Vinciquerra, who took over as chief executive in May. Mr. Mosko, Sony’s longtime television chairman, left last year amid tension with Mr. Vinciquerra’s predecessor.

On the bright side, Sony may now be better positioned than rival television studios to do business with Apple. “While we are sad to see them go,” Mr. Vinciquerra said in an email to employees about the executives’ departure, “we are excited by the opportunity to work with them as partners in the future.”

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