Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman took the stage at SXSW to discuss their forthcoming short-form mobile streaming service. More accurately, they were defending it — and they unveiled new high-profile projects in the pipeline to sell it.
The platform launches next April and Katzenberg said they are going to release a new series every Monday. The two pulled back the curtain to give us more insight to what we can expect from the platform which already has names This includes an origin series for Telemundo’s wildly popular film El Señor de los Cielos, a music competition show hosted by Scooter Braun as well as a reality series from Jennifer Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions and Industrial Media’s B-17 Entertainment titled Thanks a Million which will feature people literally paying it forward to people who have changed their life. Quibi will also have a docuseries called The Frat Boy Genius which will follow the story of Snapchat creator Evan Spiegel. They also mentioned Sam Raimi’s 50 State of Fear which will feature the scariest story in every state in the country.
In addition, Quibi will feature short-form news programming from a millennial-friendly host as well as global news at noon from the BBC. They will also feature music news and a “best of late night” program. Katzenberg looks to “make information convenient as Spotify made music convenient.”
Even though they have grand plans to change the short-form content consumption game, the panel’s moderator NBC News & MSNBC’s Dylan Byers was questioning whether or not the platform would be successful. At one point, Katzenberg jokingly said, “we’re selling our ass off here!” while trying to convince Byers of its viability. The two have been on a Quibi hustle and Austin was one of three cities they have been in today just to talk about the buzzy platform.
Despite Byers’s doubt, the pair, gave an argument for why Quibi will be synonymous with short-form content like Kleenex is synonymous with tissue and Google is with search engines.
“We are bringing the best of Silicon Valley and the best of Hollywood,” said Whitman. She adds that it is the first entertainment platform of its kind and is quick bite content (hence the name) created by Hollywood’s top talent.
“It makes video on mobile devices engaging,” she said.
The platform takes long-form content and breaks it into little bits. Essentially, it will be one long story told in chapters and Katzenberg understands Quibi is “improbable and impossible” but remains confident in the product, saying that he lives at the intersection of improbable and impossible. Nothing like this has been done before and he says it’s tough to be judgmental about its success because there is nothing to compare it to. “It’s hard to ask someone’s opinion about something they haven’t experienced.”
With Whitman and Katzenberg leading the charge and eight entertainment studios investing, things are looking optimistic for Quibi. Katzenberg says that the studios are going to give the best showrunning talent and promises that the content will “attain a level of quality that has never been seen before.”
“Five years from now we want to come back to this stage and have it be the era of Quibi,” said Katzenberg.
Byers volunteers to interview him at that time and Katzenberg fires back playfully saying, “I’m going to interview you!” calling him a “doubting motherf*cker” and imagining the conversation five years from now which he will ask, “What was wrong with you?”
In the end, Byers said he was doubtful at the beginning of the panel, but is now less doubtful.