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Apple could have bolstered its video content strategy significantly with an acquisition of a production company, a report claims, with discussions allegedly involving Apple CEO Tim Cook and SVP Eddy Cue said to have potentially led to a purchase of Imagine Entertainment.
The talks between Apple and the Hollywood production company, owned by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, were allegedly serious enough that they warranted the attention of the high-level Apple CEOs, according to several sources of the Financial Times "briefed on the discussions." It is unknown how long the negotiations had been going on for or why they broke down, with the report simply stating "the discussions fizzled out," but the talks are said to have taken place "recently."
The subject of the talks centered mostly around how Apple could use Imagine's content with its services, with the possibility of a "first look" distribution deal of Imagine movies and TV shows. A potential investment in the production studio was also raised, as well as an outright acquisition of the company.
The timing of the talks is apt, as Imagine recently ended a long-term production and distribution deal with Universal Pictures. A new production deal with Apple or another online service could have been a new direction for Imagine, which is known for the films "Apollo 13" and "The Da Vinci Code" as well as a stable of television shows, putting its content in front of audiences through new alternate distribution methods.
An acquisition of Imagine Entertainment would have given Apple a considerable boost to its original content strategy. The iPhone producer has recently shown off "Planet of the Apps" and "Carpool Karaoke", two shows it will be bringing to Apple Music subscribers soon, with previous comments expressing interest in "content creation and ownership" strongly suggesting more internally-produced content will follow.
Acquiring a major content producer, such as Imagine, is entirely possible for Apple to accomplish, with Cook previously suggesting a purchase is more to do with the "strategic value" than the size of the target. Apple is also a prolific buyer, purchasing between 15 and 20 companies per year for the last four years, and is unlikely to stop anytime soon.
Apple was also rumored to be interested in acquiring Time Warner, another major content producer, before AT&T's $80 billion deal last year, but it is thought the talks stayed only at a preliminary level.
Update: Imagine co-chairman Michael Rosenberg later told Variety, "The story is not accurate and Imagine has no further comment."