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Apple has poached an Amazon executive to bolster its television division, as it looks to reverse a slide in sales for its set-top box.
Tim Twerdahl spent almost four years as director and general manager of Amazon’s FireTV business before joining Apple as a vice president earlier this month, according to his LinkedIn profile. Mr Twerdahl has previously worked at Roku, a rival to Apple TV and FireTV in the set-top box market, and Netflix, as well as Wimm Labs, a smartwatch start-up that was acquired by Google a few years ago.
Mr Twerdahl’s hire comes as Apple is stepping up its investment in original TV content in an attempt to boost its Music app as it vies with Spotify, Amazon and Tidal for subscriptions. Apple has lagged behind Amazon and Netflix in developing original content.
Jimmy Iovine, the Beats co-founder who joined Apple when the headphone maker was acquired in 2014, told Variety in an interview this week that the investment in video was “nothing to do with what Netflix is doing”. Apple has commissioned original series including Planet of the Apps, about iPhone software developers, and Carpool Karaoke, an offshoot of the Late Late Show with James Corden.
“We’re trying to make the music service a cultural point of reference – that’s why we’re making video,” Mr Iovine said.
During last week’s earnings call, Tim Cook, Apple chief executive, said the iPhone maker was “learning a lot about the original content business and thinking about ways that we could play in that”.
However, Luca Maestri, Apple’s finance chief, told the FT in an interview that sales of its $149 Apple TV box “declined on a year-on-year basis” in the holiday quarter. Apple TV is included alongside the iPod, Apple Watch and other accessories in the company’s “Other Products” revenue line, which fell by 8 per cent in the quarter ending in December. Mr Maestri blamed the decline on the introduction a year earlier of a revamped set-top box, given there had been a “lot of momentum from the launch of the new product” in late 2015.
Neither Apple nor Amazon has revealed specific sales figures for their TV devices. Amazon’s FireTV streaming players range from its $40 Stick to its $90 4K Fire TV box, alongside a $130 “gaming edition” bundle that also comes with a controller.