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Dr. Dre to Star and Produce -- in an Apple Original?

By Daniel Sparks – Feb 13, 2016 at 3:30PM

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You've probably heard about the growing popularity of Netflix originals -- and maybe even watched a few. But what about this?

Dr. Dre will be starring in Apple's (AAPL -3.00%) first scripted television series, according to a Friday report from The Hollywood Reporter. The company's move to produce original content follows Alphabet's (GOOG -1.98%), (GOOGL -1.82%) YouTube, Netflix (NFLX -1.78%), Amazon.com (AMZN -1.57%), and other streaming video companies. Here's why Apple may be joining in with its own originals.

Dr. Dre. Image source: Apple.

Apple's inaugural original
Apple's Beats Electronics acquisition in 2014 has served a number of purposes. But one of the clear takeaways from the start was that a key asset acquired in the acquisition beyond the Dr. Dre-branded hardware was the human capital in Dr. Dre and co-founder Jimmy Iovine. Both have continued to play key roles for Apple, and Dr. Dre is now apparently even starring in the company's inaugural foray into original content.

The new series, which is currently called Vital Signs, will be a six-episode semi-autobiographical series, according to Hollywood Reporter. The show will focus on a distinct emotion in each episode, showing how Dr. Dre's character deals with them. Sam Rockwell and Mo McCrae are reportedly included in the cast, too.

Why an Apple original?
The series, which is bankrolled by Apple, will likely serve to distinguish its Apple Music platform, according to Hollywood Reporter:

"The series likely will be distributed via Apple Music, the company's subscription streaming site, but it's not clear if Apple TV, the iTunes store or other Apple platforms (or even a traditional television distributor) will be involved. Apple and a rep for Dre declined to comment."

This could signal a move for Apple Music toward the way Alphabet is packaging YouTube Red. That service offers an ad-free YouTube and YouTube Music experience, as well as recently launched YouTube originals.

There is an undeniably strong case for producing original content -- a case that first started gaining steam with streaming-video company Netflix. Netflix has seen immense success in funding its own aggressive expansion of original content, so much that it wants to rollout 600 hours of original content during 2016, up 33% from the 450 hours is rolled out in 2015. Companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and now Alphabet's YouTube, are using original content to distinguish their services, helping to attract and retain subscribers. Amazon uses it for its Prime shipping service, and YouTube hopes it will beef up its new YouTube Red service.

Apple Music. Image source: Apple.

Apple likely hopes original content on its platform can help set the company's Apple Music -- and whatever it may morph into -- apart.

Apple could leap onto the scene of "originals" very quickly and with great volume. Thanks to the company's massive balance sheet of over $200 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, any of the company's film projects could have access to considerable financial support.

With Apple reportedly putting plans for a bundled television service on hold, the company could be shifting its resources and energy for television toward a ramp in original content. For now, however, Hollywood Reporter says that Dre's series is "currently the only scripted original on deck at Apple." So, it's not clear yet just how seriously Apple could be taking this new initiative. It's possible investors may here more about this new show at the company's rumored March 15 event.

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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Sparks owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon.com, Apple, and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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