Everyone from Facebook to Brown Sugar is getting into original programming, but Apple stands out among the many companies pursuing video strategies.
Maybe it’s a sense of fear after seeing how thoroughly Apple has dominated other markets like smartphones. Maybe it’s the intimidation afforded by Apple’s record $285 billion in cash on hand. But something about Apple wading into video—even with a relatively small $1 billion earmarked for content—has the television and online video industry shook.
While Apple is still figuring out how to distribute its video programming, the company has been busy making numerous hires in an effort to fill its video team with television and video industry veterans. Apple got off to a good start by hiring Sony Pictures Televisions alums Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to run the show. Here are five more executives to watch as Apple gets in the ring with the likes of Amazon, CBS and Netflix.
Head of Domestic Creative Development
Who he is: Chernis has a deep background of television production experience, with a little bit of feature film work added in for good measure. He worked in original programming for FX, helping launch series including “Nip/Tuck,” “Rescue Me” and “Sons of Anarchy.” He was a programming exec for Fox Broadcasting, helping launch series including “Glee” and “Bob’s Burgers.” He worked as a senior vice president of production at Warner Bros., watching over the production of features like “300: Rise of an Empire.”
Most recently, Cherniss served as president and general manager at WGN America, where he helped kick off an original scripted series strategy that earned the network a solid reputation. With Cherniss at the helm, WGN launched series including “Salem,” “Outsiders” and “Underground.” When Sinclair acquired Tribune Media last year and announced a shift away from pricey scripted series, Cherniss left the programmer and joined Apple.
What he’s doing: While Apple’s earliest forays into original programming were reality series like “Carpool Karaoke” and “Planet of the Apps,” the company has begun to pick up scripted shows, which could be the handiwork of Cherniss.
Last year, Apple announced plans to release a morning news show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and featuring Jay Carson, a supervising producer on Netflix’s “House of Cards,” as showrunner. Apple will also work with Steven Spielberg to bring back anthology series “Amazing Stories.”
Both shows give Apple and Cherniss some splashy, high-profile buzz to kick off the scripted series efforts.
Creative Development of Children’s Programming
Who she is: In 2012, Sorensen was the second television executive hire at Amazon, and she said that back then the company’s programming division had the feel of a chaotic startup. She had spent the previous 15 years in jobs at National Geographic Kids Entertainment and Sony Pictures Family Entertainment, and she praised the change of pace that Amazon provided as a streaming media company.
“Amazon has given me the autonomy to launch a kids’ brand which doesn’t have to abide by the same rules and templates as other production companies. They encourage us to take risks and think outside of the box. It’s been refreshing and rewarding,” said Sorensen, who helped launch Amazon originals including “Just Add Magic” and “Lost in Oz,” which won three (and was nominated for five total) Daytime Emmys last year.
What she’s doing: The frenzied startup environment during Amazon’s early TV days that Sorensen enjoyed could be close to what is happening now with Apple’s still-nascent programming effort. Sorensen’s hire seemed to be the first indication that Apple was developing kids’ programming. But instead of being the second TV exec on board this time, Sorensen joined a team of veteran TV execs already in place at Apple.
Who he is: Rozenfeld’s experience overseeing the development of TV products stretches back to 1995 when he was looking after shows like “Malcolm and Eddie” for Columbia Tristar Television. Since then, he has served two stints at ABC (as vice president of comedy programs and senior vice president of current programming) along with time spent in programming and series development at VH1 and directing and executive producing series including “Two Guys and a Girl” and “Huge.” Most recently, he spent seven years as executive vice president of current programs for Sony Pictures Television.
What he’s doing: While it’s still unclear which projects Rozenfeld is directly involved with, at the rate Apple is ramping up its programming slate—most recently announcing a scripted series about the early life of NBA player Kevin Durant—he’ll likely have lots to do.
Head of International Content Development
Who he is: Wandell joined Apple in October 2017 after spending more than four years with Amazon Studios. At Amazon, he started as head of drama series—helping launch shows like “Man in the High Castle,” “Jack Ryan” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”—before moving on to become head of international series. He also previously worked with Van Amburg and Erlicht on Amazon's “Sneaky Pete.”
What he’s doing: As online video competitors like Amazon and Netflix continue to grow internationally, Wandell will likely be tasked with finding series for Apple that will help the fledgling video program gain ground around the globe.
Creative Director, Europe, Worldwide Video
Who she is: Since 2005, Hunt has split time between the BBC and U.K.-based broadcasters Channel 4 and Channel 5. While at Channel 4, she had a hand in developing series including “Black Mirror” and “Humans,” and while at BBC, she helped launch U.S. crossover hits like “Sherlock” and “Luther,” as well as “Criminal Justice,” which was adapted as “The Night Of” by HBO, according to Variety.
What she’s doing: Hunt has a lot of experience and a proven track record of launching series that can find audiences abroad. She’ll likely have a big role in launching series for Apple that can travel well to all the international markets where Apple’s products and services have grabbed market share.