Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg Says People Will Be Blown Away by Quibi

Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz
Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz star in a "Most Dangerous Game." (Quibi)

Are you a fan of classics from the Disney animated movie renaissance? How about DreamWorks Animation films or even The Golden Girls? Well, Jeffrey Katzenberg had a hand in many of those things that have brought you joy for decades.

The longtime exec who headed up the likes of Walt Disney Studios and co-founded DreamWorks Animation is putting all his efforts these days into Quibi. During an era of stream-and-binge, the new service is being touted as the first entertainment platform built for easy, on-the-go mobile viewing — a quality watching experience in 10 minutes or less.

“It’s unlike anything they’ve seen before,” Katzenberg said. “I think the best storytellers, creators, showrunners in Hollywood have turned out in an extraordinary way for Quibi. They’ve done some amazing content. I think people will be blown away.”

Elba Vs. Block

Idris Elba puts the pedal to the metal in “Elba vs. Block.” (Quibi)

Some of the biggest studios and names in the industry have already come on board ahead of the Monday, April 6, launch. No less than 50 shows, scripted and unscripted, will be available right out of the gate, featuring the likes of Jennifer Lopez (Thanks A Million), Chrissy Teigen (Chrissy’s Court), Liam Hemsworth (Most Dangerous Game), Sophie Turner (Survive) and Idris Elba (Elba vs. Block). In all, Quibi is set to unveil 175 original shows and 8,500 “quick bites” of content in the first year alone within its three categories of content.

The visionary Katzenberg took note of the evolution of YouTube over the last six to eight years into the most widely distributed media platform across the globe. He saw the increased demand for consumed video content on the go. During his time at DreamWorks Animation, an approach began to formulate while he was working with filmmaker and producer Brian Robbins.

“He had this idea of splitting movies up into chapters,” Katzenberg said. “When I look at people who have influenced me the most, he was kind of my Yoda.”

Another point of influence for the Quibi founder came in the form of a novel. Not necessarily the story itself, but how it was told.

“If you read novels, a typical chapter is 20 to 40 pages long,” Katzenberg explained. “That’s because we read a page a minute, and after 30 minutes our eyes get tired.

“Twenty years ago I read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. It’s 464 pages long, has 105 chapters. The average chapter is less than five pages long. At the time, when asked why he took this approach. He said, ‘I don’t think that my readers have as many 30- or 40-minute chunks of time anymore. I want them to have a really great reading experience, even if they have shorter amounts of time available.

“When you step back and look at it, there is nothing less about The Da Vinci Code. It’s a story beautifully done. It has it all. It left such an impression on me that you can tell a big story in smaller chapters, and it didn’t make the story less ambitious. “

Looking at Quibi’s initial offerings, the programming casts a wide net, looking to tap into a variety of interests, whether someone is interested in shoe culture or the Shape of Pasta, comedy or suspense. For Katzenberg, the intention was to present different types of stories and storytelling where they can get a clear indication of what people might favor most.

“What do they value the most?” he asked. “What are the things they want to come back to every day versus from time-to-time? All of that data will start arriving on April 6. Up until then, everything we’ve done at Quibi has been by our knowledge, experience, and, most of all, our instinct.

“What I had said for 45 years as a storyteller, I work for my audience. I’ve always worked for the audience. They are the ultimate decision-maker. They know what they like and don’t. The sooner we have to engage with our audience and get feedback is our we will fine-tune this into what i think could be a really amazing success.”

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah stars in “When the Street Lights Go Down.”(Quibi)

Quibi packs a punch early on in the first round, led by its CEO Meg Whitman. An initial pitch caught the eyes of heavy-hitting major studios and investors leading to upwards of close to $2 billion. Katzenberg found the idea appealed to those with an entrepreneurial and creative spirit.

“They love doing something new, different and unique,” he said. “We gave them a new set of tools to be able to tell stories and create their film in a beautiful way, viewed on a telephone. I would hope what isn’t lost on you is how beautiful it looks on your phone.

“You’ve never seen anything like before. Filmmakers saw a whole new form of storytelling, with these movies told in chapters and serialized. Everybody got quite excited by the creative challenge. I’m so proud of what they delivered.”

Quibi’s big debut comes in the middle of a pandemic where many around the world are at home. Perhaps they are looking for an escape. Katzenberg wants to provide that by providing the first 90 days free to those who sign up this month.

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez is looking to create a chain of generosity in “Thanks A Million.” (Quibi)

“If you go back to a year-and-a-half ago,” he said, “and you see what the mission statement we laid out for Quibi, the idea for us was to inform, entertain and inspire. I think our content creators have fulfilled that goal. That was the ambition.

“We are in a moment in time where every single one of us is more stressed, distressed with anxiety, uncertainty, fear, pain. You name it. It’s all bad right now. It’s a moment in time we can raise people’s spirits a little bit and entertain them. Give them a distraction.

“We have acknowledged this set of circumstances that we all find ourselves in today, and we’re all in this together. We made a decision to give away Quibi for free. I think that was a very critical and important pivot for us. Quibi will be measured in months and years, and not in days or weeks.

“So to forgo whatever the revenue might be at a time people are super distressed and in all kinds of financial troubles and times, we wanted to take that off the table and say, ‘Listen, wherever you are. Whatever your circumstances are. We have something that can bring a little levity and relief, a little happiness in your life.’ I think in the long run that will have been a very important thing for us, our brand and the trust we want to build with customers.”

Ultimately, Katzenberg believes Quibi has the pulse of how people consume media now and will be in the future.

“There is a wonderful Wayne Gretzky line,” said Katzenberg. “He said, ‘I skate to where the hockey puck is going.’ I feel like that’s what we’ve done with Quibi. We’ve gone where the puck was headed. We’ve arrived there in time to catch it.”

Quibi launches Monday, April 6. Cost is $4.99 with ads, and $7.99 without ads after a 90-day free trial.

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