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Katzenberg’s Quibi Lines Up New Projects With Catherine Hardwicke, Stephen Curry

Quibi, the upcoming video service founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP CEO Meg Whitman, is getting two shows from Stephen Curry’s Unanimous Media as well as director Catherine Hardwicke. Katzenberg and Whitman announced the new projects at Variety’s Innovate summit in Los Angeles on Wednesday, where the duo also shared some additional details on the technology and roadmap of the service.

Quibi, which is short for quick bites, has signed up Hardwicke for a project titled “How They Made Her,” Katzenberg revealed on stage at the event. Written by Jeff Lieber and Charlie McDonnell, the show will be a thriller about an AI character.

The service will serve up the show and others in 10-minute increments. “We are not short-form, we are Quibi,” said Whitman, who is leading the service as CEO. “You leave the house every morning with a little TV in your pocket. It’s called your smart phone,” she explained. “During the day, you have these in-between moments. 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, where you want to see something great.”

Katzenberg and Whitman first unveiled Quibi in August, and revealed the branding of the service in October. At the time, the company also revealed that it had signed up A-list talent including Jason Blum and Guillermo del Toro for the service. On Wednesday, it added a new documentary series about the basketball team of the St. Benedict’s Preparatory high school in Newark, N.J., to that list. The show will be executive produced by Curry’s Unanimous Media, and developed and produced by Whistle.

Katzenberg said the company was hard at work gearing up content for its launch, which is scheduled toward the end of 2019 or in the first quarter of 2020. “The biggest challenge is the volume of content,” Katzenberg said, explaining that Quibi wanted to serve up 5,000 quick bites of content in the year following its launch. “It’s a tall order to do this in the next 12 months, but that doesn’t mean we are not gonna try.”

One of the weapon’s in Quibi’s arsenal is the company’s $1 billion funding, which allowed it to pay top dollars that in many cases equal TV budgets. Katzenberg said Quibi is paying up to $6 million an hour for some of its shows. In exchange, the service gets a seven-year exclusive for any of the titles it commissions. Following those seven years, the rights revert back to the creators.

Whitman admitted that being a newcomer, as opposed to launching out of an existing studio or network, came with its own set of challenges. “This is the first service that’s ever being launched without a library,” she said. “No one has done this quality of content in this format.”

However, starting from scratch also helped Quibi make better use of its technology, said Whitman, which included incorporating the data that comes with scripted shows. “We can apply meta-tagging to every single frame,” she said. This metadata will be used to help Quibi users find and choose content faster. “It takes about eight minutes to find what you are looking for on Netflix,” she said. “This can not take eight minutes.”

Quibi is also putting a lot of effort into getting the mobile experience right, said Whitman, beginning with optimizing productions for mobile screens. “The actual shows need to be shot with more contrast,” she explained. To account for viewing on the go, Quibi will also add controls for screen brightness directly to its app, she added.

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