The decision to launch amid the headwinds of COVID-19 wasn’t a straightforward one, Katzenberg admitted during an interview for podcast Recode Media yesterday.
When asked whether he and CEO Meg Whitman considered delaying the launch, the former Disney and Dreamworks CEO said, “The answer is yes. We weighed that up and that was our bet. Our gamble was to play offense. Being able to come to market at a time when the entire world is in a defensive posture, to be able to come with something we’re proud of and delivers on its promise, might turn out to be an advantage. But over and again we wanted to be certain we weren’t taking advantage of people’s disadvantage. That was the turning point for us…to do this with the substantive change of giving it free for three months.”
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The platform’s launch party on April 5 was cancelled weeks ago, but Katzenberg said marketing budgets haven’t been reduced as a result of the pandemic.
In the wide-ranging interview, the executive said he was confident about Quibi’s foundations, saying it has sold 100% of its ad inventory for the next 12 months and, amid the global production slowdown, has enough content in the pipeline to take it up to Thanksgiving.
Katzenberg said the $1.75B short form project is “a marathon not a sprint” and he hopes to be in it for at least 10-20 years.
The LA-based mogul described his content team as “the best and brightest from every walk of life in Hollywood, from movies, TV, news, sports. They are diverse in their experiences but they are young and millennial and as over-confident as you can find. That was a trait I was looking for in recruiting them.”
At the end of the talk, Katzenberg was also asked for his thoughts on Bob Iger stepping down at Disney.
“Bog Iger is in the Hall of Fame of the great CEOs of our time,” he said. “He has done an extraordinary job of leading that company. On a good day, that’s a hard job. He has been signaling for a couple of years that he was coming to the end…I cannot say I was surprised by it. But I was surprised by the immediacy and timing of it, like everyone else.”
Katzenberg recalled Iger’s successor Bob Chapek as a rising star in the home entertainment department even when he was at the studio more than two decades ago.
“He [Iger] picked an outstanding executive in Bob Chapek. He’s different from Bob but whoever came next was going to be different from Bob.”
Katzenberg also credited the studio with “the best management team in the entertainment and media business today.”
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