Two Gawker veterans, Cord Jefferson, who left the site for a career writing for TV, and Max Read, Gawker’s former editor in chief, sold Apple on an idea for show called “Scraper” (but it was clearly about Gawker Media), the network of blogs that created mischief and headaches for America’s powerful until its targets sued the company into oblivion in 2016.
Apple hired two more former Gawker editors, Emma Carmichael and Leah Beckmann, as writers, and they had completed several episodes in the can.
Then, Apple CEO Tim Cook heard about it.
Mr. Cook, according to two people briefed on the email, was surprised to learn that his company was making a show about Gawker, which had humiliated the company at various times and famously outed him, back in 2008, as gay. He expressed a distinctly negative view toward Gawker, the people said. Apple proceeded to kill the project. And now, the show is back on the market and the executive who brought it in, Layne Eskridge, has left [Apple].
Gawker was always a canary in the cultural coal mine, mostly because of its mission of heading farther along the coal face than others wanted or dared to… And when it was reported in 2016 that the tech mogul Peter Thiel had secretly financed the lawsuit that brought down the company, it seemed the final truth Gawker had exposed was the power and determination of Silicon Valley to bring the media to heel.
But now, from beyond the grave, Gawker is revealing another reality in this era of media consolidation: that the chief executive of one of the biggest companies in the world, who testifies before Congress and negotiates with China, also decides what television shows get made.
So far, Apple TV+ is the only streaming studio to bluntly explain its corporate red lines to creators — though Disney, with its giant theme park business in China, shares Apple’s allergy to antagonizing China’s leader, Xi Jinping. Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services, who has been at the company since 1989, has told partners that “the two things we will never do are hard-core nudity and China,” one creative figure who has worked with Apple told me. (BuzzFeed News first reported last year that Mr. Cue had instructed creators to “avoid portraying China in a poor light.”)
MacDailyNews Take: Well, yes, for better or worse, Tim Cook decides what television shows get made for Apple TV+ (which hardly encompasses every television show). As will Apple’s next CEO and the CEOs after that.