Pop star Justin Timberlake and basketball legend Kobe Bryant are in talks to create programs for a new online service called Quibi, according to people with knowledge of the matter, joining a video start-up backed by titans from Hollywood and the Silicon Valley.
The two stars would produce and appear in series for the service — the name of which is short for quick bites — under the deals being discussed, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations have not been completed.
Quibi is a new video service led by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former DreamWorks Animation chief executive officer, and Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of EBay and Hewlett-Packard.
The two have raised US$1 billion to build a paid outlet for high-end, short-form video — promising HBO-like quality in TV shows that run for 10 minutes or less.
“This quick-bite form of entertainment should be as big a growth opportunity as TV was when it came around in the mid-1950s,” Katzenberg said on a panel at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills.
The talks with Timberlake and Bryant offer a glimpse into the programming strategy of the service. The two executives this week also announced a handful of other creative partners, including Get Out producer Jason Blum, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro and Training Day filmmaker Antoine Fuqua.
Quibi plans to produce more than 70 programs in its first year, about half of which would be original series, the people said.
The company plans to spend the equivalent of up to US$5 million an hour on those shows and pay the producing studios a fee on top of production costs.
The other half of the slate would feature a mix of short news clips, sports and lifestyle videos.
The company recently hired Janice Min, former editor-in-chief of the Hollywood Reporter, to oversee entertainment news.
Scripted shows would run eight to 10 minutes, while news and other unscripted programs would last five to seven minutes.
Whitman and Katzenberg aim to release the service late next year.
It is to cost US$5 a month for those willing to watch advertisements, and US$8 a month for those who are not.
The two are trying to grab a piece of a mushrooming market for mobile video by delivering Hollywood-quality programming to the short-form market and convincing viewers to pay for its programs.
The question is whether the new venture can carve out a piece of a crowded market. Consumers already spend more than two hours a day watching clips on their smartphones and have deep ties to several strong competitors, including Netflix Inc, YouTube and social-media services, such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
Katzenberg and Whitman have been honing their message about why they will succeed.
In a recent interview, Katzenberg, a tireless salesman, compared Quibi to HBO, an early cable network that created the tag line “It’s not TV; it’s HBO.”
The two used the example in subsequent presentations.
The start-up had been calling itself NewTV until it adopted Quibi. and alhough it is unclear if consumers will take to the new moniker, it already rolls off the tongue for Katzenberg.
“Jeffrey can’t stop saying Quibi,” Whitman said.
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