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SXSW: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Meg Whitman Announce Quibi Projects Including ‘Frat Boy Genius’

Jeffrey Katzenberg speaks at the Austin
Suzanne Cordeiro/REX/Shutterstoc

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman have unveiled a slate of short-form projects heading to Quibi, their upcoming video streaming service designed for mobile devices.

The duo, in an opening day panel at SXSW Film, announced a “Thanks a Million” show from Jennifer Lopez’s company about the power of giving; an origin story to complement Telemundo’s drug cartel series “El Señor de los Cielos”; a music competition show produced by Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber’s longtime manager; and “Frat Boy Genius,” based on a Black List script on the rise of Snapchat and its creator, Evan Spiegel.

The session came seven months after Katzenberg and Whitman launched Quibi with a reported $1 billion from investors, including Warner Bros. and Disney. They said Friday that the service will launch in April 2020, with more than 100 pieces of original content per week.

Katzenberg, who most recently headed DreamWorks Animation, said he’s aiming to make Quibi — which stands for “quick bites” — ubiquitous in the coming years: “Five years from now, we want to come back on this stage and if we were successful, there will have been the era of movies, the era of television and the era of Quibi. What Google is to search, Quibi will be to short-form video.”

Whitman, a former top exec with Hewlett Packard and eBay, described her relationship with Katzenberg as one plus one equals five.

“Jeff is a right-brain storyteller and I am deeply analytical,” she said. “We’ve learned to work together in a way that is super powerful.”

Katzenberg said Quibi will benefit from the growth of 5G mobile networks and the tendency of younger millennials to shy away from conventional television for entertainment.

The executives were interviewed by NBC News’ Dylan Byers. Whitman, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the California governorship in 2010, admitted that she provoked surprise when she endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, then added, “On a scale of one to ten in terms of being worried about this country, I’m at like a twelve.”

Katzenberg was asked about recent reports that his longtime friend and former business partner Steven Spielberg had said Netflix movies should not be eligible for Oscars without a significant theatrical run. Katzenberg asserted Friday that Spielberg had not done so.

“I talked to Steven about this yesterday,” Katzenberg said. “He said, ‘I absolutely did not say that.'”