By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Friday announced a multiyear deal with Oprah Winfrey to create original programming, a coup in the battle for A-list talent and projects in the booming digital entertainment market.
“Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world,” Apple said in a statement.
Apple gave no details of the type of programming that Winfrey would create, the value of the deal, or when it might be released. Winfrey had no immediate comment.
Winfrey, 64, an influential movie and TV producer who also publishes a magazine, is expected to appear on screen, a source familiar with the deal said.
Apple has not said how it plans to distribute its programming, to which it has committed an initial $1 billion.
The partnership is the biggest original content deal struck by Apple so far as it aims to compete with Netflix Inc (NFLX.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Time Warner Inc’s (TWX.N) HBO.
Netflix, which has said it will spend up to $8 billion on programming this year, in May struck a multiyear deal with former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to produce films, documentaries and other content.
Netflix, the world’s leading streaming entertainment provider, has also lured prolific television producers Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes away from broadcast television.
Amazon said in November it had bought the global television rights to “The Lord of the Rings” and would produce a multi-season series that explores new storylines preceding author J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Earlier this week, Amazon also announced a development deal with Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman’s production company for movies and television.
For its part, Apple in November ordered two seasons of a dramatic series with Hollywood stars Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, looking at the lives of people working on a morning television show.
Other projects Apple has announced include a remake of Steven Spielberg’s 1980s science fiction anthology series “Amazing Stories,” based on Isaac Asimov’s influential “Foundation” science fiction novels, and a drama from “La La Land” movie director Damian Chazelle.
Under the deal with Winfrey, she will remain chief executive of cable channel OWN, which she launched in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Inc (DISCA.O.). Winfrey in December extended her contract with OWN through 2025, OWN and Apple said.
Under her contract with OWN, Winfrey can appear on camera on other platforms on a limited basis.
Known in the United States by millions on a first-name basis, Winfrey rose to fame as the host of her own television talk show, using it to build a media empire that spans magazine publishing, movie and television production, cable TV and satellite radio.
Born into poverty, she is one of the world’s wealthiest women and has been nominated for two Academy Awards.
A rousing speech by Winfrey at the Golden Globes awards ceremony in January triggered an online campaign to persuade her to run for U.S. president in 2020.
She dismissed the notion, telling InStyle magazine in an interview, “It’s not something that interests me.”
(Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bill Rigby and Richard Chang)
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