Apple's Eddy Cue talks content, Texture, free speech, and the future in SXSW appearance

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited March 14
Apple hasn't traditionally had a great deal of participation in the annual South by Southwest festival, but Apple's Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue sat for an on-stage interview at the event.




Interviewed by CNN technology reporter Dylan Byers, Cue talked about the company's recent acquisition of Texture that had been announced earlier in the day, as well as Apple's other content plans. He also delved into the questions, prominent today, about the line between free speech and harassment, and how tech companies are struggling to thread it.

"We want the best articles," Cue said of the company's plans for Texture. "We want them to look amazing and we want them to be from trusted sources."

The executive also addressed the recent controversies about free speech and the trouble that rivals Facebook and Google have had with both.

"We think when you have a large platform, there's a large responsibility," Cue said. "From the music store, to the app store, to podcasts, we had a bunch of rules, we came up with guidelines that had to be followed in order to participate in that.

"At times we got some heat for it, people weren't happy that we had guidelines. The other part is that no one is completely free. There's no such thing as free," Cue said to applause. "There's no pornography on any of these sites, so people do draw lines, and you can decide where you want to draw the line. We do think free speech is important, but we don't think white supremacist speech or hate speech is free speech that ought to be out there."

He added that Apple has rejected such content as bomb-making apps.




Cue also defended Apple's continuing approval of the NRA TV streaming network in its App Store, noting that the channel follows Apple's guidelines, and reiterated that Apple has never allowed its platforms to be used for the direct sale of firearms.

On content, Byers referenced Apple's large cash pile and asked about whether Apple would have any interest in an outright purchase of Netflix or Disney. Cue noted that Apple has partnered with both companies over the years, and while he didn't officially say no to any buy of the major streamers, he said that Apple's way hasn't traditionally been to make huge acquisitions of established companies.

Cue made it clear that content-wise, Apple has its eyes on the future, and ways of delivering content beyond the traditional cable and satellite model.

Asked by Byers if Apple is going to do what Netflix and Amazon have done, in prioritizing going into business with major directors, showrunners and other creatives, Cue had an interesting answer.

"We're all in," Cue said. "There's a difference though- we're not after quantity, we're after quality."

Much like Apple's goal is to make the best smart phone in the world, Cue was clear that rather than flood the zone with a staggering amount of new content- as Netflix, implicitly, has been doing- Apple wants to concentrate on making the best shows it can.

"When you think of content, first of all, and you can see that here at South by Southwest, great storytelling is important," Cue said. "And, you get great storytelling from big name people, and you get it from new and up-and-comers."

Cue learned the lesson from Steve Jobs himself, at the time Jobs was running Pixar at the time when the pioneering computer animation company had its early hits. Cue promised some upcoming "surprises" on the content front.

"We want things that are of great quality," Cue said. "That doesn't mean everything will be a hit, but everything should be very very high quality, and I think that's where we will stand out."

He acknowledged that Apple didn't begin the venture with any built-in expertise at making TV shows, but has now hired around 40 people for its team, which is led by Sony TV veterans Jamie Ehrlicht and Zack Van Amburg.

On live TV and sports, Apple said that the company is focusing on finding ways to "augment the experience" for sports fans, rather than directly bidding on streaming sports rights, as Amazon, Facebook and Twitter have done in recent years. And on augmented reality, he talked up the idea that users could use apps to try on clothes, virtually.

While discussing Apple News, Cue was clear that the company favors "in-depth" news, while not necessarily giving people the news they want.

"Technology in and of itself is not for good," emphasized Cue. "The people that make technology have to make it for good."

With images and reporting by Roger Fingas

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    He should be careful about trying to suggest (even indirectly) that Netflix doesn't produce "high quality" content.  Many of the best TV shows in recent memory (and some all-time greats) are coming from Netflix.  They are the name in quality TV programming at the moment.
    SpamSandwichdesignr
  • Reply 2 of 18
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    He should be careful about trying to suggest (even indirectly) that Netflix doesn't produce "high quality" content.  Many of the best TV shows in recent memory (and some all-time greats) are coming from Netflix.  They are the name in quality TV programming at the moment.
    They also produce a lot of crap, that's to be expected at this volume. They're taking the studio system 1920s-1940s way of if you produce enough things, some will be fantastic (and some are). For every Casablanca you had tons of nameless sludge to pad out the schedule (seems familiar :-). That will be even more the case this year as they expanded their production a lot.. There are only so many good script, producers, directors, etc. Eventually you run out of them. That particularly true when compatition for talent is heating up witht Apple, Disney, Google, Amazon, HBO, all the slew of cable shows and all the traditional TV producers all vying for them.

    Apple if they want to go "all in", could easily outbid all of them (doesn't mean it would be worthwhile financially, but they could).
    edited March 12 tmayracerhomie3cornchipStrangeDayslolliverjony0brakken
  • Reply 3 of 18
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,245member
    He should be careful about trying to suggest (even indirectly) that Netflix doesn't produce "high quality" content.  Many of the best TV shows in recent memory (and some all-time greats) are coming from Netflix.  They are the name in quality TV programming at the moment.
    I don't think that was what Eddie was suggesting at all.

    Still, Netflix is talking about something like 700 original programs a year (many of these are partnerships with distribution regions split with Netflix), and frankly, some of their original content isn't of the "highest quality" in my opinion. That's the quantity part that Eddie is cautious about.


    lolliverjony0
  • Reply 4 of 18
    I love Eddie!!
  • Reply 5 of 18
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,245member
    The more I see Apple entering these media spaces, the more I expect Apple to provide a buffet of devices and services within a flexible and modifiable single monthly payment/lease plan.
  • Reply 6 of 18
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 273member
    Quantity and Quality are not independent. The last people you want making decisions on quality are the Suits. 

    We all can think of cult-classics that the Suits didn't like. 

    Though, the real problem is no amount of words will ever explain what we mean by quality. There is no algorithm for deciding. 

  • Reply 7 of 18
    foggyhill said:
    He should be careful about trying to suggest (even indirectly) that Netflix doesn't produce "high quality" content.  Many of the best TV shows in recent memory (and some all-time greats) are coming from Netflix.  They are the name in quality TV programming at the moment.
    They also produce a lot of crap, that's to be expected at this volume. They're taking the studio system 1920s-1940s way of if you produce enough things, some will be fantastic (and some are). For every Casablanca you had tons of nameless sludge to pad out the schedule (seems familiar :-). That will be even more the case this year as they expanded their production a lot.. There are only so many good script, producers, directors, etc. Eventually you run out of them. That particularly true when compatition for talent is heating up witht Apple, Disney, Google, Amazon, HBO, all the slew of cable shows and all the traditional TV producers all vying for them.

    Apple if they want to go "all in", could easily outbid all of them (doesn't mean it would be worthwhile financially, but they could).
    Sure, but it's a little weird for a company like Apple which has produced zero high quality television programs to be pontificating about great content.  All they have done so far is line up a small number of big (and not so big) names with the promise that great stuff will come.  Frankly, I don't understand how a small number of great shows will move the needle.  Don't you need a large collection of content so people keep coming back after binge watching the awesome stuff the first week after it drops?
    cornchiprogifan_new
  • Reply 8 of 18
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,638member
    Did he talk about what he actually does at Apple? That would have been nice to see....
    cornchiprandominternetpersonrogifan_new
  • Reply 9 of 18
    Does Apple think Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke were quality TV shows?
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 10 of 18
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,251member
    Does Apple think Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke were quality TV shows?
    Hope not.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,044member
    He should be careful about trying to suggest (even indirectly) that Netflix doesn't produce "high quality" content.  Many of the best TV shows in recent memory (and some all-time greats) are coming from Netflix.  They are the name in quality TV programming at the moment.
    Netflix is definitely in the “quantity” camp. Most of their branded content really does suck. There are a few standouts, but they aren’t the norm. So much of it is junk from foreign tv channels that they just licensed. 
  • Reply 12 of 18
    Now I'm pretty sure I'm not the first guy to bring this up, and safe to say the current agreement with the studios doesn't allow it, but I wonder what it would take to be able to have an Apple Movie/Series monthly subscription service. There is a ton of content from the studios (TV and Movies) available to rent on iTunes, so the infrastructure is there already. Not every movie is available on any one service, whether Netflix, HBO, Showtime, etc., so it's not like the entire catalog on iTunes need be made available (although it would be nice).

    I'm not sure how Apple would differentiate themselves from the other guys, but if they can, a subscription offering access to a curated selection of existing studio content (that gets updated regularly), with some original content shouldn't be out of reach for Apple. They could even offer a bundle with Apple Music...
  • Reply 13 of 18
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Now I'm pretty sure I'm not the first guy to bring this up, and safe to say the current agreement with the studios doesn't allow it, but I wonder what it would take to be able to have an Apple Movie/Series monthly subscription service. There is a ton of content from the studios (TV and Movies) available to rent on iTunes, so the infrastructure is there already. Not every movie is available on any one service, whether Netflix, HBO, Showtime, etc., so it's not like the entire catalog on iTunes need be made available (although it would be nice).

    I'm not sure how Apple would differentiate themselves from the other guys, but if they can, a subscription offering access to a curated selection of existing studio content (that gets updated regularly), with some original content shouldn't be out of reach for Apple. They could even offer a bundle with Apple Music...
    The problem is that everyone wants to run their own show, that's why Apple has had to finally produce their own programming, no one wants to be part of someone else's "bundle" cause then they lose control of their marketing and prices crash as content become commodity. That's why music is so cheap, the producers have never really controlled the distribution channels.
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 14 of 18
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,483member
    Does Apple think Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke were quality TV shows?
    Obviously Eddy does.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 3,483member

    Now I'm pretty sure I'm not the first guy to bring this up, and safe to say the current agreement with the studios doesn't allow it, but I wonder what it would take to be able to have an Apple Movie/Series monthly subscription service. There is a ton of content from the studios (TV and Movies) available to rent on iTunes, so the infrastructure is there already. Not every movie is available on any one service, whether Netflix, HBO, Showtime, etc., so it's not like the entire catalog on iTunes need be made available (although it would be nice).

    I'm not sure how Apple would differentiate themselves from the other guys, but if they can, a subscription offering access to a curated selection of existing studio content (that gets updated regularly), with some original content shouldn't be out of reach for Apple. They could even offer a bundle with Apple Music...
    I don’t know about movies. Netflix selection of movies is crap. I have HBO, Showtime and STARZ and it’s rare that they show any good movies. I can’t imagine the studios would allow Apple to offer movies as part of a subscription service.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    🙂 Lovely interview! 
  • Reply 17 of 18
    What the heck is stuck on the bottom of his shoe? It looks like he's wearing cleats, and then stepped on a a wad of toilet paper.
  • Reply 18 of 18
    What the heck is stuck on the bottom of his shoe? It looks like he's wearing cleats, and then stepped on a a wad of toilet paper.
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