Responding to a Wall Street Journal report that Quibi would soon be conducting layoffs, its top-level managers published a memo this morning reassuring a staff that the startup is “in good financial position.
“Nothing has changed since our last company meeting two weeks ago,” read the memo, sent from Quibi’s movie-mogul founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and its Silicon Valley celebrity CEO, Meg Whitman.
“As we said in that meeting, we will look for ways to tighten our belt. We are not laying off staff as a part of cost saving measures. We’ve recently added a dozen new Quibi employees.”
The memo, which was obtained by entertainment trades including The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, said that Katzenberg, Whitman and the rest of Quibi’s senior executive staff would take 10% pay cuts.
Quibi is backed by $1.75 billion in venture capital, and it said it has sold out its first-year sponsorship inventory worth $150 million. But the service has been slow to gather subscribers since its April 6 launch, accumulating a reported 1.6 million of them, many on a free three-month promotion briefly available in April. WSJ, which reported on the Quibi staff meeting several weeks ago, also said Quibi advertisers are looking for breaks from their original payment agreements.
Katzenberg notably blamed the slow start on trying to launch a streaming service enabled only on smart phones in a market where consumers have all been quarantined in their living quarters. But in that meeting two weeks ago, Quibi brass collectively conceded that their content mix may have been off-target, relying too much on scripted shows. Bloomberg reported last week that Quibi has already begun altering its programming slate, with a renewed focus on a reality lifestyle genre that appeals to older women.
“We are excited about the future,” Katzenberg and Whitman insisted Wednesday. “As we shared in our most recent company meeting, the best is yet to come. We are confident in Quibi and the work that you are creating every day.”
Meanwhile, Katzenberg and Whitman also disputed a New York Post Page Six report that said Quibi staffers were unhappy that Reese Witherspoon had reportedly made $6 million to narrate a low-rated nature documentary, Fierce Queens.
“We are pleased with the performance of Fierce Queens,” the memo said. “The talent compensation was utterly inaccurate. We are grateful for Reese’s continued support of Quibi."
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