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Beats courted Netflix before selling to Apple, report says

  • Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine was a key player in Apple's release of iTunes and the iPod
  • Netflix's content chief, Ted Sarandos, told Iovine the company wasn't ready for music
Jimmy Iovine announces Apple Music during Apple WWDC in San Francisco, June 8, 2015.
Getty Images
Jimmy Iovine announces Apple Music during Apple WWDC in San Francisco, June 8, 2015.

Apple Music chief Jimmy Iovine was already an Apple veteran when he sold Beats for $3 billion in 2014.

But Iovine approached Netflix as he mulled whether he could keep Beats as a stand-alone company, according to a profile in Bloomberg Businessweek published on Thursday.

According to Bloomberg, Iovine realized he needed to raise money and dilute his stake in Beats because of the costs of keeping the brand afloat. But Netflix's content chief, Ted Sarandos, told Iovine the company wasn't ready for music.

Iovine was a key player in Apple's release of iTunes and the iPod in the early 2000s before founding Beats.

"I've always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple," Iovine had said in a statement after the acquisition. "The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple's unmatched ability to marry culture and technology."

The New York Times had previously reported that Iovine "didn't see a stand-alone model that was going to work" for Beats, which was co-founded by musical artist Dr. Dre. But the Netflix talks provide an interesting tidbit, considering that Iovine said earlier this year that Apple Music has "nothing to do with what Netflix is doing."

Variety asked if he sees Apple Music attempting to become competitive with Netflix, and he replied. "I wouldn't put it that way ... When I read that, or I read that we're taking on whomever, I say no. To me it's all one thing. It's Apple Music, and it happens to have video and audio. … It has nothing to do with what Netflix is doing."

Netflix itself has been bandied about as an Apple acquisition target to beef up its streaming services. But Apple analyst Neil Cybart of Above Avalon noted that Iovine's vision is different that what's out there — and that's what draws Apple in.

Apple's Eddy Cue has posited that Apple Music is positioned to be more like a modern-day MTV.

"If management wanted quick access to a successful music streaming service, the obvious path forward ran through Spotify, not Beats," Cybart wrote. "However, Apple wasn't looking to buy just a music streaming service. Instead, Tim Cook and Eddy Cue, Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services, were looking for a long-term vision as to how Apple should approach music content. Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine was selling that vision."

For more on Iovine's vision for Apple Music, see the profile at Bloomberg.com

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