Apple’s slate of original programming will now have something for the kids.
In its first foray into children’s programming, Apple announced Wednesday that it has ordered two shows — one live-action, the other animated — from Sesame Workshop, the maker of “Sesame Street.” In addition, Apple has put a Sesame Workshop series centered on puppets into development.
The announcement brought the number of series publicly confirmed by Apple to 15. The company has said it will start streaming its offerings next year, when it will begin competing in earnest against Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
Next Monday will be a landmark day for those entertainment ambitions. That is when the crime drama “Are You Sleeping” is scheduled to go into production. The series — starring Octavia Spencer, a project of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company — will be the first show from Apple’s new slate to start filming.
Other Apple series have experienced hiccups. Two of them — a revival of the 1980s Steven Spielberg anthology series “Amazing Stories” and a drama with a morning-show setting that stars Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston — have seen changes in the executive producer ranks.
Another show that Apple purchased from Witherspoon, based on a collection of short stories by Curtis Sittenfeld, lost its star this week. Kristen Wiig is departing the series after citing a scheduling conflict with filming on the “Wonder Woman” sequel, in which she will play the villain, Cheetah.
Those fits and starts have hardly kept Apple from making announcements. In recent days, the company has announced a content deal with Oprah Winfrey; ordered a show called “Little Voice” from producer J.J. Abrams, with songs written by Sara Bareilles; and struck a deal with playwright and television writer Alena Smith for a comedy starring Hailee Steinfeld as the great American poet Emily Dickinson. It has also given the green light to “Little America,” an anthology series from Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, the husband-and-wife screenwriting duo behind “The Big Sick,” and Lee Eisenberg, an executive producer of “The Office.”
When Apple began courting producers last year, it said it had a budget of about $1 billion to work with. Now it is becoming clear that the company will blow well past that figure. In charge of Apple’s lineup are two veteran television executives, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlich, who previously ran Sony Pictures Television, the studio behind “Breaking Bad” and “The Crown.”
Apple has been saying for months that its offerings would include children’s programming. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have all been aggressive in that arena, believing that such content is a big attraction for parents to subscribe to their services.
Although it is a nonprofit educational organization, Sesame Workshop has no intention of being left behind in the midst of the deal-making craze that has accompanied the rise of the streaming industry.
With the Apple deal, it is making a concerted effort to expand beyond “Sesame Street,” the series that began on PBS in 1969 and now counts HBO as the home for its first-run episodes. Sesame Workshop has its biggest programming slate in 15 years, with a new animated series, “Esme and Roy,” expected to premiere on HBO in August.
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