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Apple in final talks with former HBO visionary who championed Game of Thrones

Richard Plepler is best known as the man who helped shape HBO into the prestige network it is today, and now he’s in final negotiations to bring those talents to Apple.

Plepler is looking to sign an exclusive production deal at Apple that will see him produce “the kind of high-quality series he championed as a top executive at HBO, including Game of Thrones,” Deadline first reported. The Verge can confirm those details. Focusing on just a few projects centered around talented actors, writers, and filmmakers is the same strategy that Plepler brought to HBO when he was appointed co-president in 2007. HBO under Plepler and co-president Michael Lombardo saw the release of series like Game of Thrones, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, and The Newsroom.

After more than 25 years at Time Warner (now WarnerMedia), Plepler’s decision to part ways with the company following AT&T’s takeover felt like foreshadowing for what HBO was about to become and the end of an era. AT&T chief operating officer and WarnerMedia head, John Stankey, previously told HBO staff that output was going to increase by a reported 50 percent as the company geared up to launch its own streaming service, HBO Max. AT&T and WarnerMedia needed more original series and films to compete with competitors like Disney, Netflix, and Apple. A memo sent to HBO staffers in March found Plepler referring to an “inflection point” at the company as part of the reason he decided to leave.

“Hard as it is to think about leaving the company I love, and the people I love in it, it is the right time for me to do so,” Plepler wrote. “So many of you, and many others before us, have made HBO a cultural and business phenomenon.”

Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world that has scaled its hardware business, but executives’ vision for TV Plus does align with Plepler’s ideology. CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly said they’re trying to make prestigious original content and, despite mediocre reviews from critics, executives are reportedly very happy with the reception to Apple TV Plus’ first wave of shows.

The company is also in a position to offer Plepler a handsome deal. Apple has money to spend; there’s more than $210 billion in cash on hand, and a proven commitment to developing original series via pouring money into Apple TV Plus’ content budget. Having someone like Plepler who has a history of ordering award-winning, groundbreaking series is something that Apple could use as they figure out how to make a mark on original entertainment.

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