i3 | November 21, 2019

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman

by 
Cindy Loffler Stevens

Quibi, a new Hollywood-based short-form streaming startup led by CEO Meg Whitman and Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, stands for “quick bites” of video. The company plans to take premium films shot by award-winning directors like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke and present them in episodic chapters no longer than 10 minutes. The unique value proposition? This storytelling will only be created for mobile phones. According to market research firm eMarketer, consumers are now watching close to 70 minutes of video on smartphones each day. In the last year, Quibi has raised $1 billion in financing from Disney, WarnerMedia, and other major studios and investors and has numerous projects planned with famous filmmakers. Whitman, who previously ran for governor of California and was CEO of both HP and eBay, talked with i3 about Quibi’s unique business model aimed at millennials that will launch in April.


What is your business model?

Quibi is a subscription service with two pricing levels — $4.99 per month with advertising and $7.99 per month without. In terms of advertising, Quibi is offering a uniquely uncluttered environment with a single non-skippable 6-, 10-, and 15-second pre-roll before Quibi content. Additionally, Quibi will be experimenting with a number of other innovative ad formats on the platform to provide advertisers with new ways to tell brand stories.


What makes Quibi unique? Are other streaming services from Apple, Disney Plus and Warner Media competitive?

Quibi does not compete with these other services because we have a truly unique use case for the product. Our mission is to make every mobile moment extraordinary. We started with the notion that people are living their lives on the go and there was a need to fill those in-between moments throughout the day with something amazing: the ten minutes you spend waiting at the doctor’s office or your 20 minute subway ride to work.

What partnerships have you forged?

Quibi announced that it has sold over $100 million of its first-year advertising inventory. The company’s roster of category exclusive advertising partners who will support the launch in April of 2020 include Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, ABInBev, Walmart, Progressive and Google.

How does your management style differ from founder Jeffrey Katzenberg?

Jeffrey and I see almost everything differently — and that’s our superpower. When we work together, the different strengths we bring, from Hollywood and Silicon Valley, give us the potential to create something new and powerful.

Can you talk about some of the artists developing original content and the innovative content ownership deal Quibi offers?

Action Scene stars Kevin Hart as he plays a fictionalized version of himself on a quest to land the action movie role of a lifetime. After being rejected for the role, Kevin randomly encounters a leading A-List action movie star which inadvertently sets off a chain of events, causing Kevin to fight his way through a series of hilarious, over-the-top action sequences with the help of some of Hollywood’s biggest action movie heroes.

Antoine Fuqua’s #Freerayshawn tells the story of a young, black Iraq War veteran named Rayshawn (Stephan James) who is set up by New Orleans police on a drug deal, runs for his life and takes refuge inside his apartment building with his girlfriend and child. With New Orleans PD and the SWAT team outside ready to storm his home, a social media frenzy begins as community members and news outlets arrive at the scene. During this growing mayhem, a sympathetic cop named Steven Poincy (Laurence Fishburne) plays the role of negotiator, and, over the course of one brutally stressful day, Steven tries to get Rayshawn to calmly surrender in order to avoid an escalation of unnecessary violence.

Catherine Hardwicke’s Don’t Look Deeper is set in Merced, California, “fifteen minutes into the future,” with Emily Mortimer and Don Cheadle. It centers on a high school senior who can’t seem to shake the feeling that something about her just isn’t right. And that something is... she’s not human... not one of us. This revelation of what she really is, where she comes from, and who has started looking for her, sets in motion a series of events that suddenly puts her entire life in jeopardy.

From the executive producer of CSI, Murder House Flip is an unconventional new home renovation show that takes on the country’s most infamous homes: the ones known for the mysterious murders and incredible intrigue committed behind their walls. Homeowners turn to the colorful cast of forensic specialists, spiritual healers and high-end renovation experts to uncover the true crimes, shocking secrets and scandalous history of their homes. Then, cleansing renovations remove the stains of the past and take these homes from morbid to marvelous.

Quibi will also produce Daily Essentials, curated news and information from top partners created exclusively for Quibi. NBC News will produce a morning and evening news show (Briefly AM and Briefly PM), each under six minutes, seven days a week. The shows will have hosts and dedicated correspondents, who will create original news content out of New York’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza and will feature mixed reality graphics. Breaking news coverage will be powered by NBC News Now, the network’s digital streaming service, and Quibi will have access to NBC News’ worldwide news-gathering teams, as well as its archival footage. BBC will host a global news show airing every day at 12 PM. The BBC News show for Quibi will be filmed at the BBC’s central London HQ five days a week, and each episode, which will be designed specifically for mobile, will be five minutes long.

How will you use the data you are capturing?

Our platform will use anonymized data to quickly begin to understand our viewer’s habits and provide them with a personal feed that will lead them to content that’s curated just for them in seconds, not minutes.

How will the roll out of 5G impact Quibi?

We think 5G is a key enabler for Quibi because our use case is all about on-the-go mobile entertainment. So, greater network speeds at the edge will only make that experience better.

What are your plans for CES and your keynote?

Our keynote is titled “Better Storytelling Through Technology”. The next mobile generation in entertainment will be defined not just by incredible content, but by the platform through which that content is delivered. We plan to focus on what makes Quibi truly unique, which is the way we’re building it: knocking down the walls between platform and content, and a creating true partnership between technology and entertainment, from the ground up — the best of Hollywood, hand in hand with the best in Silicon Valley.

What improvements are you making to the mobile phone experience?

We made clear from day one that we were creating a mobile-only platform. We’re not shrinking TV onto phones. We’re creating something brand new. That meant exploring the inherent challenges of this new platform — light, sound, orientation. And, it meant exploring how the unique features and attributes of a mobile phone could create an entirely new entertainment experience. To see how we are addressing some of these you will have to come to the keynote at CES.

Quibi Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman will keynote at CES 2020 on Wednesday, January 8, at 9:30 AM in the Park Theater at the Park MGM Hotel.