Its namesake service isn’t slated for North American launch until April 6, 2020, but Quibi, the short-form media startup founded late last year by Hollywood kingpin Jeffrey Katzenberg and led by Silicon Valley skipper Meg Whitman, is well on its way to building a star-studded team.
Over the last eight months Quibi–under the temporary name “NewTV”–hired former Hollywood Reporter editor Janice Min, former DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson, and former Viacom Music and Entertainment Group president Doug Herzog, among others, for the content side of the Los Angeles company. It brought on Blake Barnes (Instagram), Tom Conrad (Pandora), Joe Burfitt (Snap), and CJ Smith (Snap) for its product department. Rob Post, Hulu’s former engineering VP, leads engineering. Talent from CAA, CBS, Funny or Die, Google, Lionsgate, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Makeready, TBS, and Vice round out a pack of about 135 employees.
And now the company’s board of directors is set.
Fortune has learned that Quibi has selected the following executives for its board: Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and former chairwoman of DreamWorks Animation; Roger Lynch, CEO of Cond? Nast and former CEO of Pandora; Ann Daly, co-founder at WndrCo Holdings and former president of DreamWorks; Harry “Skip” Brittenham, founding partner of Ziffren Brittenham LLP and a top entertainment industry attorney; Greg Penner, founder of Madrone Capital Partners and chairman of Walmart; Meg Whitman, CEO of Quibi and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and eBay; and Jeffrey Katzenberg, founder and chairman of Quibi and co-founder of WndrCo and DreamWorks.
In a statement, Katzenberg called the executives “innovative thinkers” from the tech and entertainment industries who understand that people are consuming video in new ways: “They understand how both worlds can come together to reimagine how we tell original stories and create the next era of entertainment.”
As Sheila Marikar wrote in the February 2019 issue of Fortune magazine, Quibi raised $1 billion from investors in a bid to build a high-quality, original, short-form video platform for mobile devices–a Netflix of sorts that’s native to the handheld format and backed by Hollywood’s major movie studios. (Imagine episodic series from directors such as Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua, and Sam Raimi–all of which are actively working on material for Quibi–that are two to four hours in total length but delivered in chapters or segments no more than 10 minutes long.)
“Quibi” is a portmanteau of “quick bites.”
The three key questions dogging the young media company: Whether anyone will pay for high-quality mobile content offering (it’s tentatively priced at $5 per month; an ad-free version costs $8 per month); whether it can grow large enough to outpace its considerable launch spending; and whether it can make enough progress to outpace competing efforts by Apple, Google’s YouTube, Disney, and others.
In an interview with Fortune last weekend at the Producers Guild of America’s Produced By conference at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., Katzenberg and Whitman offered further detail on Quibi and its business model and waved away comparisons with competitors. The startup plans to spend $1 billion on content and another half billion on marketing, Whitman told me. It’s primarily aiming for users 25 to 35 years old; more broadly, ages 18 to 44, Katzenberg said. It’s working with advertisers to create serialized, short-form ads to match the content–for example, there will be just one 15-second preroll ad for every five to 10 minutes of content, and a five-second version for clips less than five minutes long.
Production companies meanwhile benefit from Quibi fronting the money for their creations. After two years, creators can repackage Quibi’s segmented content into complete series for distribution on other platforms; after seven, they’ll own the intellectual property outright, Katzenberg said.
Quibi has no desire to be a movie studio, Katzenberg said–it’s a platform for a new kind of video product. Which is why its board draws equally from the power corridors in northern and southern California. Or as Whitman told me on Saturday: “We’re trying to bring the very best of Silicon Valley and Hollywood together.”
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