Apple hires former HBO chief to produce TV, film, and documentaries exclusively for Apple TV Plus

Television executive Richard Plepler is credited as the man who helped HBO become the prestige network it is today, helping launch titles like Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies and overseeing HBO’s transition to streaming. Now, after departing HBO earlier this year, he’ll take his talents to Apple where he’s set to produce original TV shows, films, and documentaries exclusively for Apple TV Plus, according to The New York Times.

The five-year contract is with Plepler’s company, Eden Productions. Plepler was in final talks with Apple as of November, The Verge confirmed at the time. The new deal would give Plepler the ability to make the type of entertainment he wanted but that he felt he could no longer do at HBO following AT&T’s purchase of WarnerMedia.

Plepler left HBO nearly a year ago, following a 25-year stint at the company. His decision to part ways with the company felt like foreshadowing for what HBO was about to become and the end of an era. In the time since he’s left, multiple other HBO executives have departed. It’s unclear if any of them will join Plepler in his new venture.

“It was instantaneously clear to me that I had a wonderful and very privileged run at HBO and I wasn’t going to be able to duplicate that again,” Plepler told The New York Times. “And I didn’t want to try to duplicate that again. It felt very clear to me that I just wanted to do my own thing.”

HBO is currently undergoing a cultural shift that reportedly has insiders and industry members nervous. AT&T chief operating officer and WarnerMedia head, John Stankey, told HBO staff that output was going to increase by a reported 50 percent after the Time Warner acquisition. The news came as WarnerMedia geared up to launch its own streaming service, HBO Max, in an attempt to compete with Netflix, Disney, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, and Apple.

Plepler referred to the company being at an “inflection point,” and he cited the changing management and company priorities as part of the reason he decided to leave in a memo sent to HBO staffers in March. Still, he doesn’t see Apple and HBO as competitors, even though, in many ways, they are since they’re both vying for subscribers and eyeballs in a crowded space.

“There is plenty of room out there for everybody to do well and for everybody to produce their version of good content, and I don’t think of it for two minutes as rivaling HBO,” he told the Times.

Plepler may not want to re-create what he did at HBO, but Apple may want him to bring that level of success to TV Plus. Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly said the company is trying to make prestigious original content and, despite mediocre reviews from critics, Cook and other executives are reportedly very happy with the reception to Apple TV Plus’ first wave of shows. The company also received its first Golden Globe nominations, thanks to The Morning Show, the service’s flagship series.

Now that he’s at Apple, Plepler is working with a company that has a sizable budget and is looking to take bets on original programming that will grab attention and subscribers. It could be a match made in heaven for both.

Tesla’s holiday software update includes voice-to-text, Camp Mode, and a song making kit

Tesla has started rolling out a massive holiday update that was previously teased by CEO Elon Musk last week, including a “Full Self-Driving sneak preview.” It also includes long-awaited features like reading text messages aloud, a “camping mode,” and more.

The “full self-driving” sneak preview is mainly an improvement on the driving visualizations that appear in-car. The new visualization can now “display additional objects that include stoplights, stop signs, and select road markings.” The update notes, however, that stop signs and stoplight visualizations “are not a substitute for an attentive driver and will not stop the car.” Here’s the visualization in action:

One of the biggest feature updates allows driver to listen to and send messages via Tesla’s built-in voice commands. What seems like a basic ability for any modern car was previously unavailable. Tesla doesn’t use other third-party services like Apple Carplay or Android Auto, according to Tesla news site Electrek, but customers have requested the feature for years.

Tesla’s update notes specify customers can “now read and respond to text messages using your right scroll wheel button.” When drivers receive a new text message, all they have to do is “press the right scroll wheel button to have your text message read out loud and press again to respond by speaking out loud.” Customers will also be able to view messages via the “Cards” section on the touchscreen. The feature won’t work with group texts, and notifications on phones must be enabled.

Another long requested feature, going back to the Model S launch in 2012, is the release of Camp Mode. The update will allow customers who want to use their vehicles for camping situations to “maintain airflow, temperature, interior lighting, as well as play music, and power devices when Camp Mode is enabled.” Although Tesla issued a software update in 2017 that allowed for climate control features to run for an extended length of time, this new update marks the first official Camp Mode. Its arrival comes just one month after Musk revealed Tesla’s new vehicle, the Cybertruck. A camper configuration will be available to purchase, making the mode somewhat essential.

Of course, a Tesla update wouldn’t be complete without a few fun additions. There are a couple of new games available to play on the center console, but the more exciting addition is TRAX. TRAX is a digital audio workstation, similar to Apple’s Garage Band that’s available on MacBook and Mac devices. Once in park, customers have the ability to mess around and make their own songs on the fly. Here’s YouTuber Oliver “Ov” Ryan playing the theme song to Nickelodeon’s Rugrats:

Further details on the holiday update can be read in-depth over on ElecTrek.