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Alfonso Cuarón Was a Pioneer With Netflix, but Signed an Exclusive TV Deal With Apple

After earning Netflix three Oscars for "Roma," Cuarón switched his creative allegiance to Apple and all the innovation its money can buy.

Alfonso Cuaron91st Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

Alfonso Cuaron

Andrew H. Walker/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

Alfonso Cuarón, the director who seemed inextricably linked to Netflix with the release of last year’s Oscar-winning “Roma,” has signed a exclusive deal with a streamer: He’s made a multi-year deal for TV projects with Apple TV+ through his London-based production company, Esperanto Filmoj.

Spokespersons for Apple and Netflix did not return requests for comment, but there are two likely scenarios to explain Cuarón’s move. One is that for a select group of creators, Apple has all the money in the world. Netflix has a similar strategy — but a stock price that’s been hammered in the last three months may have helped take the edge off its appetite. (On October 8, Apple also won a bidding war for “A Christmas Story,” not that these losses appeared to impact Netflix fortunes; in fact, the stock closed today up by almost 5%.)

Second, Cuarón is an obsessive when it comes to crafting the look of his movies, and Apple is desperate to spend money on quality in a way that probably emboldens Cuaron’s boundless imagination.

For Apple, Cuarón comes after a quiet few months in terms of pacts with high-profile film and television creators. Edward Jones equity analyst Logan Purk, who covers Apple, noted that although signing overall deals with acclaimed creators doesn’t guarantee success, the Cuarón deal bodes well.

“It’s following the playbook they have laid out since announcing Apple TV+, which is trying to get the best talent to come on board in an effort to make compelling content,” Purk said. “Signing content is one thing, but generating content is another. Just because you have a good actor or director doesn’t mean a guarantee that there is a compelling product at the end. (Cuarón’s signing) is a net positive: He has a pretty solid track record, especially with his most recent film.”

Apple inked its first overall deal with “Bates Motel” co-creator Kerry Ehrin  in April 2018; she’s the showrunner for the highly anticipated Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show.” Other creators with overall Apple deals include Justin Lin (“Fast & Furious,” “Star Trek Beyond”) and Jason Katims (writer and executive producer for Fox’s controversial “Almost Family”), though those deals were both announced almost a year ago. Apple also has a “multi-year content partnership” with Oprah Winfrey.

Cuarón’s peer Pablo Larrain is also working with Apple TV+ on Stephen King’s adaptation of his novel “Lisey’s Story” starring Julianne Moore, directing all eight episodes. That miniseries is one of several projects executive produced by J.J. Abrams, for Apple+, but Abrams signed his own $500 million megadeal with Warner Media, which didn’t demand the exclusivity that Apple does.

In 2017, Cuarón shopped a horror series, “Ascension,” with Casey Affleck as star and executive producer. And long before Cuarón won four Oscars for his work on “Roma” and “Gravity,” he got his start as a television director with “Hora Marcada,” a Mexican half-hour horror anthology series in the vein of “The Twilight Zone” that ran 1988-1990. He wrote and directed six episodes; his good friend Guillermo del Toro wrote and directed five. More recently, Cuarón co-created the short-lived 2014 NBC TV series “Believe” for Abrams and Warners.

Apple TV+ launches November 1.

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