Apple TV+ is going all-in on Fraggle Rock. Weeks after debuting a handful of pandemic-produced shorts, Vulture hears the streamer has struck a deal with the Jim Henson Company to produce a formal reboot of the classic kids’ show, complete with full-length episodes. As part of the agreement, Apple has also acquired exclusive streaming rights to all 96 episodes of the original 1983–87 live-action HBO series (and some specials) and will make them available to subscribers in 100 countries on Wednesday, May 27. The deal marks the first time Apple TV+ will offer previously produced content as part of its offering, but that does not mean the platform is getting into the library business.
According to a source familiar with Apple’s thinking, the company remains uninterested in using Apple TV+ as a repository for old shows and movies from other suppliers, the way Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu have done for years. That’s because, per the source, with big studios such as Warner Bros., Disney, and Universal looking to keep their best and biggest titles for their own streaming platforms, there simply aren’t enough great titles around to make a library strategy work. In the case of Fraggle Rock, however, having the older episodes available to stream alongside the new content made more sense than not having them as part of the offering.
The Apple source says that had the company not acquired the library, consumers would’ve had to go to HBO (the former home for the show) for old episodes and TV+ for the new. By having both, Apple can now accurately market itself as the home to all things Fraggle. (Well, at least live-action: The animated spinoff of the show isn’t part of the agreement.) The source says Henson execs first pitched Apple on the idea of bundling the classic episodes in with the deal for the reboot. Initially, the company wasn’t interested but ultimately realized it didn’t make sense for the old episodes to be streaming elsewhere, in essence competing with the reboot.
A Bloomberg report earlier this month indicated Apple had been meeting with content suppliers about library content and done deals for older movies and TV shows, and that these deals represented a change in strategy. But the source close to Apple says that there has been no change in the basic strategy, even if the deal for Fraggle Rock does represent a modest evolution in thinking at the streamer. The only cases in which Apple might consider buying library titles is if it is also working on a new project related to the existing property.
So were Apple to end up doing a deal for the rights to the James Bond franchise (something which has been buzzed about since at least 2017), the company would also likely try to get the back library of Bond films so it could market itself as the home for all things 007. The same thinking would apply were Apple to strike a deal to reboot a classic adult TV show, like something from the Norman Lear collection. Case in point: Variety earlier this month reported that Apple landed a deal to stream new episodes of Long Way Up, a follow-up to the Ewan McGregor–led British travel series Long Way Round and Long Way Down. Vulture hears Apple also has rights to the older shows and could decide to put those on the service, too, though no decision has been made.
But despite a few one-off deals, Apple TV+ continues to be committed to make its mark as a home for upscale original TV and movie content. The platform has launched 25 titles in its first six months, with many garnering love from awards voters: Apple TV+ originals have snagged 55 awards nominations and 19 wins, including 17 Daytime Emmy nominations. While The Morning Show has generated the biggest kudos, Apple’s kids’ division has come out of the gate particularly strong. Its reboot of Ghostwriter snagged 8 Daytime Emmy noms, tying it with Sesame Street as the most-nominated kids’ show.
As for the new Fraggle Rock, Apple has made a straight-to-series order for the project, which will bring back original puppet stars Gobo, Red, Boober, Mokey, Wembley, and Uncle Traveling Matt. The series will be produced by the Jim Henson Company in association with New Regency, with Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson serving as showrunners, writers, and exec producers. Lisa Henson and Halle Stanford are also onboard as exec producers, alongside veteran Henson collaborator John Tartaglia (who brings to life several key characters on the show). Ritamarie Peruggi (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) is also set to be a producer, with original series puppeteers Dave Goelz and Karen Prell also attached to the project. Harvey Mason Jr. will be executive music producer of the show.
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