Jeffrey Katzenberg Talks Working With Studios, Data Protection Ahead of Quibi Launch

Jeffrey Katzenberg attends the Hollywood Reporter/Lifetime WIE Breakfast - Getty-H 2018
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

“We have just begun the process of working with each of the studios," he said after selling $100 million with ad launch partners including Walmart and PepsiCo.

Details about Jeffrey Katzenberg's Quibi are dripping out as the mobile TV app ramps up ahead of its April 2020 launch.

The former DreamWorks CEO says the platform hit a "tipping point" about six weeks ago when people began to understand Quibi, and said that they company had 185 projects submitted in the last week alone through various studios and agencies. "Real, quality, interesting, you-have-to-pay-attention-to-this projects," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "It has its own momentum now."

The company has already announced several high-profile projects, including a horror show from Steven Spielberg, others from Steven Soderbergh and Catherine Hardwicke, which will be broken up into daily episodes, plus original shows from celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Justin Timberlake.

Asked about the failed short-form efforts such as Vivendi's StudioPlus and Verizon's go90, Katzenberg indicated that funding is on a different level. "It just was not done at the quality with the financial resources that we are making available to the Hollywood talent, so I think again the right idea but under-resourced." However he wouldn't disclose budget information.

The platform has also developed a new technology to seamlessly move from vertical to horizontal framing that will be revealed later in the summer. CEO Meg Whitman, whose team developed the tech, said filmmakers have been shooting with the new tech and "they're pretty excited about it."

Though called the "festival of creativity," Cannes Lions is ultimately an ad conference, and the duo focused on the work they are doing to offer ads that are integrated with the creative content. While they announced six strategic launch partners earlier in the week, they are currently "quite far along" in discussions with eight studios to add additional inventory.

One unnamed studio has already signed up, he said, which be announced later in the summer. Whitman explained that 60-second commercials will be divided into four 15-second "chapters" that follow the user around the platform, or a brand will have the opportunity to sponsor a show. Long-form commercials of up to five minutes are also being explored, again divided into chapters. Those can be added to a watch list to view in their entirety. The curated news section will also have a space dedicated to ads.

Katzenberg focused on film trailers that will be integrated into the show queue as well. "We have just begun the process of working with each of the studios to see what inventory they want to buy for the movie and TV companies and very specifically some of these unique attributes of Quibi they can use for the ways they tell their stories and make their trailers."

"So there are a lot of interesting attributes about Quibi for the entertainment companies whose content is storytelling, obviously in movies and television so there's been very good engagement with them early in the process," he said, maintaining that the mobile-first app's competition is Facebook Watch, Instagram's IGTV and Snapchat more than traditional TV or streamers such as Netflix or Hulu. (NBCUniversal, Sony, Viacom and WarnerMedia are investors.)

The company will share demographic information including geography, age and gender with their advertisers — but after the data breaches and new focus on privacy the company will not disclose specifics. "We are not sharing personal identifiable information, we are not sharing device ID. We will not be allowing advertisers to target specific individuals based on their viewing habits," said Whitman. "Every advertiser asks for it, as you can imagine. And we basically said no, we really want to start with a clean slate. So they pushed back on that, but ultimately they respected what we are trying to do."

"Given where the headwinds are today around this issue let's be the best case for protection of customer identity and data. We will have knowledge that will help content creators, and that we will share, but anonymize, which is where we will be driven by data," said Katzenberg. Added Whitman: "If comedy turns out to be a much higher percentage of the use case then we will invest in more comedy."