Apple just made a key hire that could unravel the mystery of its content strategy

Key Points
  • Oliver Schusser will be the new vice president of Apple Music and international content.
  • Schusser may provide a missing link between Apple's ambitions in television, music and artificial intelligence.
  • Apple Music now has 48 million subscribers, 40 million of whom are paying subscribers and 8 million of whom are on a free trial, Reuters reported.
Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue (R) greets Apple CEO Tim Cook (L) during the Apple WWDC on June 8, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
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Apple named a new Apple Music boss on Wednesday, and his background hints at what the company's thus far nebulous content strategy might be going forward.

Oliver Schusser will be the new vice president of Apple Music and international content. He'll split his time between Apple's Cupertino headquarters and Culver City, California, where many TV shows and movies are filmed, according to Variety, which earlier reported details of Schusser's appointment. Variety also reports that Schusser was key in Apple's acquisition of Shazam, which uses algorithms to identify music.

While Apple is known primarily for its focus on music, the fact that Schusser also has a background in tech acquisitions — such as Shazam — and will work part of the time in Culver City suggests that Shazam and movies could become a serious part of Apple's ambitions, as opposed to just bonus content for music lovers.

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In other words, Schusser's past experience — and presence in Culver City— may provide a missing link between Apple's ambitions in music and artificial intelligence, and its television and movie operation, run by Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg. Despite hardware such as Apple TV and HomePod, Apple's overarching media strategy has failed to impress some critics thus far.

Schusser, who joined Apple in 2004, has demonstrated an ability to work with music labels, studios and publishers — the companies that determine Apple's content acquisition costs, as it seeks to compete with big spenders such as Netflix and Spotify. He's also worked internationally, an important area of expertise as Apple deals with content challenges in big markets such as China. (He's also previously worked at Universal and Napster.)

His responsibility is now bigger than ever.

Apple Music now has 40 million paying subscribers, the company said on Wednesday, which means it is more than halfway to catching up to newly public rival Spotify, with 71 million paid subscribers (although Spotify has a total of 157 million monthly users thanks to its free platform).

That's a fast push considering that last June Apple Music had 27 million paid subscribers. A year ago Spotify said it had more than 50 million subscribers.

Schusser's promotion reflects Apple's growing focus on software and services, as well. Schusser will report to Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of internet software and services — a business that was $8.5 billion last quarter. (CEO Tim Cook has said he wants to double this line of business by 2020.)

Apple Music has its roots in Beats Music, which came to the company through a hardware acquisition. Still, a source told Variety that Schusser's promotion has "no impact on the current standing of Jimmy Iovine," a Beats alumnus who currently helps run Apple Music. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Iovine would be stepping into a consulting role at Apple in August, and Iovine later confirmed that he's moving to a consulting role at the company.