Jeffrey Katzenberg Brings Quibi To Sundance As Lena Waithe, Veena Sud & Kaitlin Olson Tease Mobile Service Content


Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s frosh mobile short-form streaming service Quibi is making a big splash here at Sundance ramping toward its April 6 launch, following a stop earlier this month at CES.

Today at the Chase Sapphire lounge on Main Street, Quibi gave indie film fans a taste of what to expect with Katzenberg bringing some of its talent roster including director Veena Sud (filmmaker of their short The Stranger), Emmy winner Lena Waithe (EP of Quibi short doc You Ain’t Got These) and Kaitlin Olson, star of the service’s upcoming comedy Flipped. 

Tonight at the Chase Sapphire lounge, Quibi is showing off several pieces of its short-form content.

At the top of the panel, Katzenberg showed on mobile phone how Quibi will display content that is conducive to both a horizontal and vertical view (often times on phones, horizontal content gets squished when the phone is turned vertical). Sud said, “the vertical format blew my mind.” Katzenberg said that the presence of Quibi synced with Sundance’s theme this year of ‘Imagine Futures’.

The short format mobile streaming service will have 175 original shows as well as 8,500 quick bites of content including comedies, dramas, news and reality series in three tiers of content including features, episodic and “Daily Essentials.” Thirty-five of those shows will be movies in chapters. The gist for Quibi is to serve up shorts that stretch over several chapters 7-10 minutes in length, thus feeding consumers’ appetite for bingeing.

“This is quite different from TV, meant to be (viewed) when you’re out and about and on the go,” said Katzenberg citing as his inspiration Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code which served up chapters that were four to five pages long, offering bite-sized chunks in telling a bigger story.

You Ain’t Got These takes a look at sneaker culture and its impact on our society, one piece being how that industry has been “commodified,” said Waithe. She praised Katzenberg as “a forward thinker” and “your business impacted everyone in this room.” She was originally thinking of her series as a docu series, but what attracted her to Quibi was “ownership. We get to license to you (Quibi) and can sell to other places.  I’m a business woman first and foremost as well.” The score for the series is a bucket-banging percussion score.

Sud’s The Stranger follows a rideshare driver in Los Angeles whose life is turned upside down over the course of 12 hours when a mysterious Hollywood Hills passenger enters the car. Maika Monroe, Dane DeHaan and Avan Jogia star. The psychopath can track her throughout LA and “every time a text lands on her phone, there’s a specific text tone,” said Sud on amplifying the horror. Sud said that as every episode dropped hourly, the psychopath’s text tone will hit your phone. “It’s an incredible way to interact with people out there,” said Sud, “the phone enables a primal, interactive viewing.” Sud loved the “slow burn” that comes with the challenge of making short-form content, plus the ending of each episode “needs a smart out.”

Flipped, from Steve Mallory and Damon Jones, follows chronically underemployed couple Cricket (Kaitlin Olson) and Jann Melfi (Will Forte), self-proclaimed home renovation “experts” who are more than confident they are television’s next great home design celebrity duo. Flipped follows the clueless pair as their dreams of basic cable fame and glory are derailed when they get themselves kidnapped by members of a drug cartel (Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, and Arturo Castro) and are forced to renovate their sprawling homes.

Olson quipped that she was attracted to Quibi because “it’s a lot of money.” But more importantly it was the freedom for the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star.

“I’ve been on a network (FX)) that trusts its creators…I got spoiled with that. I produced a show for another network, but it was an uphill battle. Everything I said was questioned, but they just needed to fill up their day,” said Olson. Flipped is “a really fun and fast show, and I never see any Quibi executives,” she continued.

“We didn’t have any,”  quipped Katzenberg.

Olson also loved the fact that Quibi is a more positive experience than the anger and depression spurred by social media, specifically “scrolling on Instagram”

Quibi recently secured $400 million in second-round funding and they have the star wattage with a full roster of Hollywood A-listers that was shown in the sizzle. Katzenberg said that Quibi will provide “multi-cultural” content reflecting “diversity.” Katzenberg said that the service’s core demo is 18-44.

Back at the Produced By conference in LA last summer, Quibi CEO Meg Whitman said at the time, “We’ve raised $1 billion, probably $500 million more (after launch)” said Whitman. Launching on April 6, 2020 Quibi will cost $4.99 a month, spend $470 million on marketing and will spend $1 billion on content.”

“We’ll have an opening weekend,” said Katzenberg back in June, “I’m confident on April 6 next year that anyone in North America will know about Quibi. It’s ours to lose.”

Today, he continued to emphasis Quibi’s business model at the end of the Sundance session. Quibi doesn’t own the content, doesn’t have post-production facilities, and doesn’t have talent under contract.

Said Katzenberg, “We’re a licensor, we’re relaying on every single piece of content that is being made by a third party under a license deal for us.”

“I don’t see that (model) as something that we’ll change anytime. We get the best people and brands in the world, give them an economic upside reward for their content, let them own and profit. Our job is to build a successful platform. Our investors will benefit from our subscriptions and revenues.

“I love getting paid for the same thing twice,” beamed Waithe.


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