Apple Gets Drama Series Starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon

By Joe Flint Features Dow Jones Newswires

Apple Inc. has struck a deal for a new drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston and set in the world of television morning-news shows.

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Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but people familiar with the matter said the cost could reach beyond $10 million an episode. Ms. Aniston's and Ms. Witherspoon's salaries are expected to be over $1 million an episode, according to a person who was pursuing the show. Ms. Aniston and Ms. Witherspoon are also executive producers of the show.

Both Ms. Aniston and Ms. Witherspoon are represented by Creative Artists Agency. A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment on their deals.

Other parties interested in the as-yet-untitled, highly sought after show included Netflix Inc. and CBS Corp.'s Showtime.

For Apple, which has yet to disclose how it plans to distribute its content, the deal for the Witherspoon-Aniston project is the second big programming bet it has made in the last several weeks.

In October, it struck a deal with acclaimed director Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television and Comcast Corp. Universal Television for a new version of "Amazing Stories," a science fiction anthology series that ran on NBC in the 1980s. The budget for that show is over $5 million per-episode, a person familiar with the project has said.

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"Amazing Stories" is seen as more of a family-friendly show, which has led to some speculation that Apple isn't interested in the dark dramas that populate much of television.

However, while details about the morning-show project are vague, given the setting of New York City and the cutthroat world of television news, the show will likely be fairly adult in content.

An Apple spokeswoman would only say the series is "an inside look at the lives of the people who help America wake up in the morning, exploring the unique challenges faced by the women (and men) who carry out this daily televised ritual."

The deal is also an indicator that Apple is prepared to spend heavily on its television venture and get into bidding wars with more established players, which is good news for producers.

Apple's programming efforts are being overseen by Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who joined the company from Sony Corp. in June. Apple is committing as much as $1 billion on its programming strategy.

The Witherspoon-Aniston series is being produced through Media Res, a production company founded by former HBO programming executive Michael Ellenberg, who is an executive producer on the series.

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 08, 2017 14:15 ET (19:15 GMT)