Netflix says it’s testing a shuffle feature for when you don’t know what to watch

Netflix is testing a new feature that can help you start streaming when you don’t know what to watch. The company confirmed it’s testing a shuffle mode of sorts, that will allow you to easily click on a popular show to start playing a random episode. The idea with the feature is to offer an experience that’s more like traditional TV — where you could just turn the set on, and there would be something to watch.

With today’s streaming services, that sort of seamless experience is more difficult to achieve. Instead, viewers now have to first select a streaming app, then scroll through endless menus and recommendations before they can settle on their next title.

The new shuffle feature, instead, offers something closer to the experience of turning on cable TV, when there was always some classic favorite show playing in syndication.

The shows being tested with the new feature appear to be those that people choose when they don’t know what else to watch, like The Office, New Girl, Our Planet, Arrested Development and others.

The Office, in particular, has a reputation for being a go-to pick for when you’re not in the middle of some other binge fest.

The TV shows appear in a new row, titled “Play a Random Episode.” To get started, you’d click any TV show’s thumbnail, and a random episode from the series then starts playing.

The thumbnails themselves are also adorned with a red “shuffle” icon to indicate they’ll play a random episode.

(Above: Seems someone had the right idea)

The new feature was first spotted by the folks at Android Police, who saw the option appear in the Android version of Netflix’s app.

Netflix confirmed to TechCrunch the shuffle feature is something it’s considering, but hasn’t yet committed to rolling out.

“We are testing the ability for members to play a random episode from different TV series on the Android mobile app. These tests typically vary in length of time and by region, and may not become permanent,” a Netflix spokesperson said.

Netflix for some time has been focused on ways to get users streaming its content faster, after they log in. That’s where it’s decision to run autoplaying trailers comes in, for example, or why it now features those Stories-inspired previews; or why it tested promoting its shows right on the login screen.

Image credit: Android Police

Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine is considering book-themed subscription boxes

Reese Witherspoon’s media company Hello Sunshine already has its hands in movies, television, Apple TV+ shows, podcasts, Audible originals, books and more. Now it’s weighing an entry into the subscription box business to further capitalize on its brand and its appeal to women.

The subscription boxes under consideration would operate out of Reese’s Book Club — the curated selection of book recommendations whose focus is on titles with strong female leads. The club, which some believe may one day rival Oprah’s, is already capable of driving sales at Amazon and elsewhere. It’s also now a feeder into other Hello Sunshine projects — like HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” Hulu’s upcoming adaptation of “Little Fires Everywhere” and others.

Now the company is gathering feedback as to how to turn the book club’s online brand — which began with Witherspoon posting books to Instagram — into a revenue-generating business of its own.

Hello Sunshine members recently received a survey asking for their feedback about Hello Sunshine and Reese’s Book Club. But the questions it posed were almost entirely focused on gathering information about what members would want to see in a subscription box.

For example, would they prefer items that are seasonal, themed to the book club’s current pick or those that  are related to reading — like book lamps and bookmarks? Or would members be open to anything Reese just likes herself, for whatever reason?

To some extent, Hello Sunshine has already begun the process of curating other non-book items through the site’s online shop, where it features things like totes, mugs, pins, hats, notebooks, makeup bags and even jewelry. These could easily be added into subscription boxes, if the time comes.

The survey also asked for feedback about how the books would be paired with the other items. Members were asked if they would prefer the monthly book club selection or themed boxes like “favorite books,” “classics” or “summer reads,” for example.

Finally, the survey asked about how customers would like to pay — monthly, quarterly, annually and so on.

While the larger subscription box craze may have passed, many that have a more female-friendly focus are still surviving — like Birchbox and Ipsy’s makeup boxes, jewelry focused Rocksbox, FabFitFun and others. And some are even thriving — like Stitch Fix’s subscription-based clothing boxes.

Hello Sunshine’s potential in this space would instead come from its growing fan base, rather than something it has to start from scratch. Today the book club has 1 million Instagram followers, up from 390,000 a year ago. That’s in addition to the 471,000 who follow Hello Sunshine and the 17.3 million who follow Witherspoon.

Hello Sunshine did not return requests for comment.

Amazon launches ad-supported music service to Echo owners

Amazon today announced the launch of a free, ad-supported music service in the U.S. that will be available to anyone who wants to play free music on their Echo speaker.

Until today, Echo owners who wanted to stream music from Amazon could either pay for an annual Prime membership for access to Prime Music, or they could pay $3.99 per month to stream from Amazon Music Unlimited (or $9.99/month to stream on non-Echo devices, as well.)

The new service has the same catalog as Prime Music, which today has just over two million songs. Amazon Music Unlimited, meanwhile, has 50 million songs.

The new service gives Echo owners a way to enjoy free music from Amazon on their Echo, instead of having having to turn to a third-party free provider, like Spotify or Pandora. It will also offer a way to push Echo owners to upgrade to the paid subscription services Amazon offers, including its Amazon Music Unlimited service and even Prime itself.

Amazon’s plans to wade into the free streaming market and more directly compete with Spotify had been previously leaked by Bloomberg. The report noted that Amazon had been in discussions with the labels in order to obtain the licenses to stream the free music — something it agreed to pay for, regardless of how much advertising it sells.

In addition to being a differentiating and attractive feature for potential smart speaker buyers — something that could have them opt for an Echo over a Google Home device or Apple HomePod, for example — the service also offers Amazon a new way to monetize its large and growing installed base of Echo speakers.

Amazon’s ad revenue was $10.1 billion in 2018, or 4.3 percent of its total revenues, and now it’s looking for new ways to grow that number.

The news also comes on the heels of a 2018 forecast from eMarketer that had predicted Amazon’s share of the smart speaker market would decline in 2020, as competition from rivals — including Google Home, Sonos One and Apple HomePod — would heat up. But there’s still plenty of time for that to change.

The market for smart speakers hit critical mass in 2018, with around 41 percent of U.S. consumers now owning a voice-activated speaker. Amazon also said at the beginning of the year that more than 100 million Alexa-powered devices have been sold to date — but this number includes non-Echo devices, including those from third-party manufacturers.

The launch of a free music service will be a significant blow to Spotify which, before now, was the only subscription music streaming service with a free tier. The free customers often then convert to paid subscribers as they use the service over time, something that has helped Spotify grow to reach 96 million paid users and 116 million free users. Apple Music has 56 million paying subscribers, but no free funnel.

Sift’s ‘news therapy’ app aims to promote understanding, not anxiety

Is reading the news feeling a little stressful today? Can’t imagine why. Don’t worry: you’re not alone. A Pew Research study found that seven of 10 Americans today suffer from “news fatigue” — meaning they feel worn out and like they can’t keep up. Meanwhile, an APA survey found that 56 percent of Americans want to stay informed, but it stresses them out. A new app called Sift, launching today, wants to help. Instead of trying to overwhelm news consumers with breaking news and incremental updates, it aims to thoughtfully approach tough topics in order to encourage a deeper understanding of the issues.

The app will tackle the big issues du jour — like immigration, healthcare and climate change, for example — which are released in a series on a subscription basis. For each topic, Sift will examine the backstory and history of the issue. And each section will include interactive features — like polls, sliders and other data visualizations — that promote critical thinking skills and keep users engaged while they learn.

The app also avoids inflammatory language in presenting the facts, allowing users time to reflect rather than react. And all the sources are linked so users can dig into the supporting material.

According to Sift co-founder Gabe Campodonico, the goal was to come up with a concept for an app that would allow people to stay informed while reducing anxiety and stress.

“We built Sift to be an active learning experience that engages more of your brain — a tool for people to interact with, trust, and learn from. And one that doesn’t have to live within a distracted ecosystem of noisy newsfeeds and headlines competing for attention,” he explained.

The original concept began over two years ago, and has gone through several iterations.

The team earlier tested a reference product — but it ended up feeling too much like Wikipedia. They also tried a digital news magazine, but didn’t feel it offered anything new. And they tested a gamified education product, but felt it lacked substance.

Eventually they landed on the idea for Sift, which they call an “experiment in news therapy.”

In October 2018, Sift launched its first topic: the U.S. immigration policy and its impact on the economy and cultural identity. The company tested the topic with a group of users over a couple of months. At the end, 33 percent said they felt less overwhelmed, and 30 percent felt less anxious. Twenty-two percent said they felt more informed.

These numbers, of course, could be better — but they’re potentially an improvement over how it feels today to get the news from other media sources. (Not that they quantify how their coverage impacts readers’ emotions.)

Today, Sift is launching its first, full series for the price of $19.99 for a six-month subscription. The business model was chosen so the app won’t have to include ads or other distractions, nor will it use data targeting. Each week, the app will release a new topic, beginning with immigration, then guns, healthcare, education, climate change and media literacy.

Part one of each topic will look to the past to set the foundation, and part two will look at potential solutions and ways to move forward.

The app is produced by former Evernote CEO Phil Libin’s AI-focused startup studio All Turtles, but it doesn’t use AI as it had originally planned. In fact, the team found that AI was part of the problem. As the Sift website explains, its user research showed that “users value human curation, not based on algorithms that clutter news consumption.”

It’s interesting that Sift is positioning itself almost as a self-care app, but for news consumption. The idea that we should take time for ourselves, reduce our stress, meditate and prioritize our mental health and wellness is a more modern concept — one attributed to the millennial and Gen Z demographic, who have grown up in the always-on digital age. These concepts have led to a booming self-care market, where the top apps are raking in multi-millions annually. 

News organizations, by comparison, often struggle. Over the course of 2018, media businesses saw numerous layoffs, hiring freezes and shutdowns. But subscription-based publications can be a bright spot — as with The NYT hitting a 13-year high, or Apple rounding up all-you-can-eat news into a subscription add-on for Apple News.

Sift aims to appeal to both markets: those who want quality news by subscription, and those focused on self-care.

Whether either of these demographics at all overlap with the crowd of news consumers who actually need more education and time to reflect, however, remains to be seen.

Sift was co-founded by Chris Ploeg, and includes engineer Steve White and Kelly Chen on editorial. It also works with contributors Nithin Coca, Laura Dorwart, Hilary Fung, MJ Gimenez, Tekendra Parmar, Casey O’Brien, Lewis Wallace and Rowan Walrath.

The app is a free download on the App Store.

Apple expands global recycling programs, announces new Material Recovery Lab in Austin

Apple announced today a further investment in its recycling programs and related e-waste efforts, which includes an expansion of its recycling program for consumers and the announcement of a new, 9,000-square-foot Material Recovery Lab based in Austin, Texas, focused on discovering future recycling processes. The company also reported the success of its existing efforts around recycling and refurbishing older Apple devices, and keeping electronic waste from landfills.

The expansion of the recycling program will quadruple the number of locations in the U.S. where consumers can send their iPhones to be disassembled by Daisy, the recycling robot Apple introduced last year — also just ahead of Earth Day.

The robot was developed in-house by Apple engineers, and is able to disassemble different types of iPhone models at a rate of 200 iPhones per hour.

Daisy can now disassemble and recycle used iPhones returned to Best Buy stores in the U.S. and KPN retailers in the Netherlands. Customers can also send in iPhones for recycling through the Apple Store or through Apple’s Trade In program online.

When Daisy was first introduced, it could disassemble 9 different iPhone models. Now, it can handle 15. This allows Apple to recover parts for re-use. That includes iPhone batteries, which are now sent back upstream in Apple’s supply chain where they’re combined with scrap, allowing cobalt to be recovered for the first time.

Apple also uses 100 percent recycled tin in the main logic boards of 11 different products, and notes its aluminum alloy made from 100 percent recycled aluminum reduced the carbon footprint of the new MacBook Air and Mac mini by nearly half.

Apple says Daisy can disassemble 1.2 million devices per year, and it has received nearly a million devices through its various programs.

It also in 2018 refurbished over 7.8 million Apple devices for resale, and diverted over 48,000 metric tons of electronic waste from landfills.

This year, aluminum recovered through Apple’s Trade In program will be remelted into the enclosures for the MacBook Air.

The company announced today another significant investment in its recycling efforts with the opening of a Material Recovery Lab in Austin, which will work with Apple engineers and academia on coming up with more solutions to recycling industry challenges. The lab also houses large equipment, typically found at e-waste facilities, to aid in this research. (See above)

“Advanced recycling must become an important part of the electronics supply chain, and Apple is pioneering a new path to help push our industry forward,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, in a statement. “We work hard to design products that our customers can rely on for a long time. When it comes time to recycle them, we hope that the convenience and benefit of our programs will encourage everyone to bring in their old devices.”

Along with the news around recycling efforts, Apple also released its 2019 Environment report, which contains additional information on the company’s climate change solutions.

On Earth Day (April 22), Apple will host environmentally themed sessions at its stores and feature environmentally conscious apps and games on its App Store collections, as well.

Wattpad partners with Sony Pictures Television in first-look deal for original programming

Wattpad, the online storytelling community whose authors’ works have been turned into Netflix movies, TV shows for Hulu and projects for other studios both in the U.S. and worldwide, announced today a new partnership with Sony Pictures Television. The deal gives Sony a first-look option for up-and-coming Wattpad stories — in other words, a way to snag the next big teen hit that already has a built-in fan base.

Wattpad says it will work with Sony to help it to identify the popular stories on its platform from the half a billion story uploads it has seen to date. The company uses its “Story DNA” machine learning technology alongside human curation to quickly identify the most promising IP and storytellers on Wattpad.

The technology helps deconstruct stories by analyzing things like sentence structure, word use and grammar, with the goal of helping to uncover the next best seller. It’s used today to help identify stories to turn into films, TV shows, books, and other digital projects.

Key to Wattpad’s ability to make these business deals is its online community, which today includes over 70 million monthly users, who spend over 22 billion minutes engaged with its original stories uploaded to its site.

This sizable community helped make Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth” movie a success, where the original story behind the film had already been read 19 million times by users worldwide.

Wattpad’s “Light as a Feather,” produced for Hulu along with AwesomenessTV and Grammnet, has been Emmy-nominated, and just got renewed for a second season.

Wattpad’s “After,” launched in theaters on April 12. It’s based on Harry Styles fan fiction and is something of a “50 Shades..” for a younger demographic. Before it became five-book series, it first racked up over a billion reads on Wattpad’s site.

Today, Wattpad works with a range of entertainment partners worldwide for similar deals, including iflix, eOne, Huayi Brothers Korea, SYFY, and others, and has turned its stories into projects at Universal Cable Productions (NBCU), Hulu, Netflix, and elsewhere.

Sony Pictures TV already had a relationship with Wattpad, before today’s news.

Last year, it acquired the series “Death is My BFF” from Katerina E. Tonks, which has over 62 million reads on the site. Lindsey Rosin (“Cruel Intentions”) is slated to write the series.

“Our entertainment partners all over the world have seen the power of our data-backed approach to IP discovery and development.” said Aron Levitz, Head of Wattpad Studios, in a statement. “Wattpad stories are some of the most innovative and creative that have ever been written. The stories and diverse voices on Wattpad deserve to be heard all over the world. And our partnership with Sony does just that: bringing Wattpad stories to new and existing fans all over the planet,” he said.

The Sony deal will be overseen by Eric Lehrman, Wattpad’s Head of Content Development and Production, the company says.

Wattpad is represented by UTA, who helped broker the deal.

 

Amazon launches a certification program for Alexa skill developers

Developers building voice-enabled applications for Amazon Echo and other Alexa-powered devices will now have a new way to validate their abilities, with Amazon’s launch of a new AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Speciality certification. This is the first time Amazon has offered a certification program for Alexa developers, the company says.

Certification programs are standard in the technology industry — and AWS already offers a training program and certifications of its own that allow organizations to identify professionals with cloud expertise and an understanding of AWS.

The new Alexa certification will be a speciality within the AWS program, and will validate those with an understanding of all aspects of Alexa voice app development.

This includes the more practical matters — like how to develop, test, validate and troubleshoot skills, the use of the Alexa Developer Console, how to manage skill operations and lifecycles, and more. But it will also get into more high-level concepts, like the “value of voice” and how a voice user experience should flow — something that many Alexa developers today still seem to struggle with.

To get started, developers can review a new exam guide which helps them learn about Alexa skill building through tutorials, technical documentation and more. Amazon is also making self-paced training courses available online.

When ready, developers aiming to get certified can create an AWS Training account, and schedule their exam.

The goal, says Amazon, is to open up “more opportunities to build engaging voice experiences” that can reach customers across the more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices on the market today.

In other words, Amazon wants those Alexa developers dabbling with skill building to learn not only the basics, but also the industry best practices — then use this knowledge to create more skills that will actually resonate with customers.

The certification program arrives at a time when smart speakers have hit critical mass in the U.S., but the ecosystem of third-party skills has not had its “app store moment” with a breakout hit, as Bloomberg recently noted.

Arguably, music, timers and smart home controls are the breakout hits for smart speakers, but these are native functions. It’s unclear how many of Alexa’s 80K+ third-party skills have a long-term future if consumer adoption continues to struggle.

In the meantime, however, businesses are still keen on the platform, given the sizable installed base for Alexa. Every day, some organization is announcing the launch of its skill. (Today, for example, it’s the Red Cross.)

“The demand from organizations for skilled professionals who can build skills for emerging voice-enabled workloads is increasing,” says Kevin Kelly, director, AWS Certification and Education Programs, in a statement. “This new certification validates those skills with the only credential in the industry focused on Alexa skill building,” he added.

 

Nearly two dozen of SiriusXM’s talk shows come to Pandora as podcasts

SiriusXM hasn’t wasted any time in capitalizing on its acquisition of streaming service Pandora. Following an exec shakeup and the launch of a Pandora-powered music station across both services, SiriusXM is today bringing some of its top talk shows to Pandora, where they’ll be listed as “podcasts.”

At launch, content from nearly two dozen SiriusXM shows will make the jump to Pandora, including those hosted by hosted by Andy Cohen, Ricky Gervais, Kevin Hart, Hoda Kotb, Jenny McCarthy, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Sway, and others.

The shows won’t necessarily be offered in their entirety, but instead will bring their top moments and highlights to Pandora listeners.

For example, “Andy Cohen’s Deep & Shallow Interviews,” will feature Cohen’s best conversations of the week; “Jenny McCarthy’s Celebrity Dirt,” will have highlights of McCarthy dishing on the latest Hollywood scandals; “The Jason Ellis Show,” will play top moments of the week; and “Sway in the Morning,” will offer the top long-form segments, among others.

Pandora will also feature the best moments, highlights and key segments from “Trunk Nation” with Eddie Trunk; “Debatable” with Mark Goodman and Alan Light; “Feedback” with Nik Carter and Lori Majewski; “Mad Dog Unleashed,” with Christopher ‘Mad Dog’ Russo; “Schein on Sports,” from Adam Schein; and “Busted Open,” a daily “best of” podcast for pro wrestling fans.

Other full, commercial-free podcasts include those from “The Hoda Show,” “Straight from The Hart with Kevin Hart,” “Ricky Gervais Is Deadly Sirius,” “Larry the Cable Guy Weekly Roundup,” and “Joel Osteen.” (A full list of programs is available here.)

“We’re excited that some of our most popular talk shows are now being made available to Pandora users,” said Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s President and Chief Content Officer, in a statement. “This will be a great opportunity for new audiences to discover these SiriusXM shows, while providing Pandora with great programming, as we continue to collaborate on content opportunities for both platforms.”

With the expansion to Pandora, these shows will now have the potential to reach a combined user base of over 100 million audio listeners across both SiriusXM and Pandora, the company says.

The collaboration gives Pandora a competitive edge in the streaming music market, where podcasts are the latest hot commodity. Spotify, in particular, has made podcasts a key focus this year. In the past few months, it has snapped up Gimlet and Anchor in its podcast push, acquired true crime studio Parcast, and allocated $500 million for more deals in this space. The company hopes podcasts — and particularly exclusives — will draw more subscribers. Plus, it sees potential in monetizing these audio programs with its own ads.

Meanwhile, rival streamer Apple Music may be looking to break out Podcasts from iTunes, to create a standalone application for Mac users, to better capitalize consumer’s growing interest in this format.

For SiriusXM, bringing its shows to Pandora is a marketing opportunity — those who want to delve in to the full programs can sign up for its subscription service.

The company says more shows will come to Pandora as podcasts in the future.

 

Walmart partners with subscription-based children’s clothing startup, Kidbox

Walmart is getting into subscription-based fashion with today’s announcement of a partnership with Kidbox — a sort of “StitchFix for kids” where parents receive a personalized, curated box of children’s clothing on a seasonal basis. The deal will see Kidbox offered to Walmart.com’s online shoppers, where they can fill out a short style quiz, then receive their box of four to five fashion items for around $48 — or 50 percent the retail prices of the bundled items.

The boxes are available in Sizes 0 through 14 for girls and 0 through 16 for boys, and include styles like sweaters, denim, dresses, graphic tees, and more — based on whatever is seasonally appropriate. Kidbox today also has relationships with over 120 fashion brands, including BCBG, Butter Super Soft, C&C California, Puma, and others.

Like other subscription fashion box businesses, Kidbox last year launched its own private labels, too, based on its understanding of consumer trends and interests. To determine what will sell, the company leverages data it gleams from things like the initial style survey, customer feedback, and by noting which items are most purchased or most returned, among other factors.

“Walmart has done a lot over the past year to establish itself as a go-to retailer for all things fashion, and we’re honored to partner with the retailer to expand its kids’ assortment online, while also saving parents time and offering them the value and convenience of a stylebox,” said Miki Berardelli, Kidbox CEO, in a statement. “At Kidbox, we pride ourselves on understanding kids’ fashion preferences while also creating moments for them to learn about the importance of giving back,” she added.

For Walmart, the partnership allows the retailer to enter into the subscription-based fashion businesses without having to build out its own service from the ground-up. Nor does it have to figure out the logistics involved with something like its own version of Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe, which heavily promotes in-house brands, but can be difficult to use since you can only shop Prime Wardrobe apparel — not all of Amazon Fashion.

Walmart also sees Kidbox as a way to expand its growing children’s apparel assortment, which has added more than 100 brands over the last year, including Betsey Johnson, Kapital K, Levi’s, Limited Too and The Children’s Place. More broadly, it wants to further increase its investment in online fashion  — whether that’s by hosting high-end retail like Lord & Taylor; offering branded storefronts like those from Bonobos or Nike; doing celeb collabs like those with Sofia Vergara, Drew Barrymore, Ellen DeGeneres, Kendall & Kylie; or by acquiring  fashion brands like ModCloth, ShoeBuy, ELOQUII, and others.

Walmart Kidbox shipments will also contribute to the subscription businesses’ “give back” program, where each box purchased translates to clothing given to a child in need, in partnership with Delivering Good.

“We are thrilled to partner with Kidbox to introduce our first kids’ subscription apparel service offering premium fashion brands at a substantial savings,” said Denise Incandela, Head of Fashion, Walmart U.S. eCommerce. “Over the last year, we have significantly expanded our portfolio of kids’ fashion brands as part of our broader effort to establish Walmart.com as a destination for fashion. Our partnership with KIDBOX enables us to round out our offering with additional national and premium kids’ brands.”

The partnership with Walmart follows Kidbox’s raise last year of $15.3 million in Series B funding to expand and scale its business. Canvas Ventures led the round, which saw participation from existing investors Firstime Ventures and HDS Capital, plus new strategic partners Fred Langhammer, former CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., and The Gindi Family, owners of Century 21 department stores.

Kidsbox isn’t the only subscription fashion box business to turn to traditional retail in recent months. This February, Kidbox rival Rockets of Awesome took a $12.5 million investment from Foot Locker, which will sell Rockets of Awesome merchandise on its own website and in its Kids Foot Locker stores.

Kidbox also competes with StitchFix, which has its own kids’ line and Amazon Prime Wardrobe, which lets customers shop for girls, boys or baby, in addition to adult apparel.

 

Apple hires A&E’s Molly Thompson as its head of Documentaries

In addition to a growing lineup of scripted fare, documentaries will be another key focus for Apple TV+, the company’s new streaming service set to launch in May. According to a new report today from Variety, Apple has hired A&E’s Molly Thompson as its head of Documentaries.

Thompson’s experience at A&E includes founding its documentary production arm, A&E IndieFilms, back in 2005. While there, several of its films earned Emmy nominations, including “Life, Animated,” “Cartel Land,” “Jesus Camp” and “Murderball.”

Cartel Land,” “Life, Animated” and “The Tillman Story,” combined, went on to win more than a half-dozen Emmys, along with other industry awards.

Thompson also has exec produced: “The Clinton Affair,” Charles Ferguson’s “Watergate” docu-series, “Studio 54,” “City of Ghosts,” “The Imposter,” “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon,” “The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld,” “No Place on Earth,” “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” and “Being Evel” — some of which were under A&E’s History Films banner.

For Lifetime Films, she exec produced two narrative features: “Lila & Eve,” which starred Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez and premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival; plus Eleanor Coppola’s “Paris Can Wait,” with Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin.

Thompson’s hiring indicates Apple’s interest in bringing content that will appeal to those who don’t regularly watch traditional TV, but instead like to stream more educational fare — like documentary films and docu-series, biographies, shows with a historical focus and other non-fiction. Plus, documentaries would give Apple a way to compete early on for Emmy attention, even if its scripted series fail to gain critical praise.

Documentaries also represent another means of competing directly with Netflix, where the format has become a huge draw for subscribers — even zeitgeist-y, at times. Netflix today has a range of documentaries that nearly everyone has seen, or has at least heard of, like “Making a Murderer,” “Wild Wild Country,” “13th,” “Amanda Knox,” “Fyre,” “Amy” and many more. This month it will have another hit in this genre, with Beyoncé’s Coachella documentary, out on April 17th.

Apple has already announced a few of its documentary efforts for Apple TV+, including Oprah’s docu-series, one of which is co-produced with Prince Harry; as well as a docu-series about extraordinary homes; and Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble’s documentary about an elephant matriarch, “The Elephant Queen.” The latter, which Apple picked up at the Toronto International Film Festival, was one of its first feature film buys.

Image credit: IMDb