However, the company, which has banked about $1.75 billion in funding, denied reports that Quibi is considering layoffs.
“We are not laying off staff as a part of cost-saving measures,” Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, Quibi’s CEO, wrote in a memo to staff Wednesday provided to Variety. “We’ve recently added a dozen new Quibi employees.” The New York Post’s Page Six reported that “Quibi may have to implement cutbacks,” citing an anonymous source, while a WSJ report said the company was considering laying off 10% of its staff of 250.
Katzenberg and Whitman also told employees that while Quibi “is in a good financial position” the company’s senior executives are voluntarily taking a 10% pay cut “because it’s the right thing to do.”
According to Quibi, since its April 6 launch, more than 1.6 million users have signed up for a free 90-day trial while its app has been downloaded over 4.5 million times. The initial audience was “not even close to what we wanted,” Katzenberg acknowledged in an interview last month with the New York Times. “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything.”
Page Six’s story claimed Quibi paid Reese Witherspoon $6 million to narrate the “Fierce Queens” nature docuseries and that “Quibi staff are seething” over the situation because the show was relatively unpopular. Jim Toth, the former longtime CAA agent and Witherspoon’s husband, joined Quibi early last year as head of content acquisition and talent.
In their memo, Katzenberg and Whitman called the Page Six article “completely inaccurate,” and said the reported $6 million compensation for Witherspoon was “utterly inaccurate.”
According to a source familiar with Quibi’s deal with Witherspoon, she was paid less than $1 million and the licensing deal for the entire seven episodes of “Fierce Queens” was less than $3 million.
“We are grateful for Reese’s continued support of Quibi. We are proud of the work that Jim Toth and the Content team are doing every day,” the execs wrote in the memo. “Their integrity and commitment to their work is unparalleled and we are fortunate to have them on our team. They have delivered compelling content that is working great with our audiences.”
Quibi is renewing shows and has already announced two renewals — Jennifer Lopez’s “Thanks a Million” and “Dishmantled,” a cooking competition hosted by Tituss Burgess.