Apple and Netflix Team Up for Unofficial Product Placement


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In 2010, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) and the Disney-owned (NYSE: DIS ) ABC sparked some controversy when the first iPad became the focus of an episode of Modern Family.

Word on the street is that Apple received the free promotion simply by providing the network with an iPad to use on the show. Now Apple is at it again, teaming up with Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) to promote its two biggest iDevices -- the iPad and the iPhone -- in the new series House of Cards.

According to Engadget , nine iDevices appear in one scene alone. Insiders claim that while Apple pays someone (likely an organization) to get its products into Hollywood projects, it does not actually pay TV networks or studios to feature the iPhone or the iPad.

This distinction might sound like Apple is staying away from true product placement, but consumer perception might suggest otherwise.

Engadget's Sharif Sakr was so disturbed by the frequent and blatant display of Apple products (including an iMac) that he wrote an entire editorial on the matter. He initially stopped watching House of Cards as he waited for Apple, Netflix or any other involved party to respond to his request for comment.

No one has answered Sakr's questions officially, but he has been informed that House of Cards producers decided to display Apple products as a thank-you to the firm for donating the devices. This response satisfied Sakr, who started watching the show again.

Apple is not the only company hoping to cash in on House of Cards. Sony (NYSE: SNE ) wormed its way into the show when Francis Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) reportedly said that he "oughta get" a PlayStation Vita for his car.

BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY ) devices are also featured on the show.

By attempting to hide the status of the product placement (whether it was brought on through a financial exchange or the donation of products to use on screen), these companies may create greater controversy than if they had been open and honest about what they were doing.

In 2009, Comcast-owned (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) NBC publicly teamed up with Subway to help pay for the production of the TV series Chuck. Subway, which had been a sponsor of the show in the past, had no qualms about the announcement.

Meanwhile, fans did not care that the Subway placement was as blatant as possible, partially because it was expected (everyone knew it was coming), but also because it was done in an amusing, over-the-top manner.

By trying to be subtle and secretive, House of Cards' unofficial product placement may appear to be much more obtrusive than if Apple and Netflix had gone public with their agreement.

Follow me @LouisBedigianBZ

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This article appears in: Investing , Stocks
More Headlines for: AAPL , CMCSA , DIS , NFLX , SNE

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