But if consumer appetite for such a service remains unproven (the core target audience is 18-to-44-year-old viewers), Quibi’s appeal for Hollywood’s creative community is already undisputed—at least in the short term. The chance to create content in a radically new format has sparked filmmakers’ imagination. The roughly two-and-a-half-by-five-inch vertical aspect ratio of an iPhone is, to say the least, not the typical frame for cinematic storytelling, but Katzenberg said directors have been stimulated by the challenge of shooting each movie two ways at once. “You make it sound like it’s a liability,” he said. “They were genuinely excited about it.”
The initial investors included Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Viacom, WarnerMedia, Lionsgate, MGM, and the British ITV. “And while we’re very pleased to have their investment,” Whitman said, “what was most important was that they gave us access to their best [content] and their best show-running talent.” She added, “And they think if we’re successful, this screen—the small screen—may well be the next big era in filmed entertainment.”
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Stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Richie, Idris Elba, Liam Hemsworth, and Reese Witherspoon have all signed up. Chrissy Teigen, a longtime fan of Judge Judy, will do a courtroom show of her own (Katzenberg quoted the tagline: “There is no claim that is too small for Chrissy’s Court”). And Katzenberg’s old partner Steven Spielberg has created After Dark, “a super-scary story,” Katzenberg said, that will be available on a subscriber’s phone only after the sun has gone down in the viewer’s location.
The overall content is divided into three broad groups: movies in chapters (one is a reboot of The Fugitive starring Kiefer Sutherland, in which an innocent person is framed for a terrorist act); unscripted series and documentaries (including a cooking show with Andy Samberg); and “daily essentials” (six-minute news segments produced each day by the likes of NBC News, the BBC, ESPN, and Entertainment Weekly). In all, Quibi will publish more than 30 pieces of original content every day, five days a week—plus fresh news and sports on the weekend. That’s more daily content than a prime-time network lineup.
One reason Katzenberg and Whitman were determined to raise so much capital before launch is cost of quality content. Their most ambitious programming will cost about $100,000 a minute—or about $7.5 million for an hour’s worth of short segments, comparable to the per-minute cost of a TV series such as Game of Thrones. Whitman said they expect that about 75 percent of subscribers will choose the cheaper version with ads, and that the overall revenue mix will be about two-thirds subscriptions and one-third advertising. The platform is offering free 90-day trial subscriptions to those who sign up before April 20, in a bid to lure viewers.