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Jeffrey Katzenberg and Quibi creators at Sundance

Quibi Nabs $750 Million More, Names News Programs Ahead of Launch

Quibi is having a big week ahead of its April 6 launch, announcing $750 million in additional funding and today unveiling program details for daily news shows from the BBC, NBC, and Telemundo.

The latest programming announcement comes two days after Quibi revealed a super-sized $750 million second round of fundraising, up by half over the amount that company executives said last year that they planned to raise before launch.

Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said the additional funding, on top of $1 billion previously raised from most of Hollywood’s major media companies and several tech and private-equity firms, would give the company a “strong cash runway.

“This round of $750 million gives us tremendous flexibility and the financial wherewithal to build content and technology that consumers embrace,” Katzenberg said in a statement provided to Variety.

The company will use the money for programming, operations and a big marketing campaign. Itis planning to roll out 175 original series and 8,500 individual programs in its first year, with production costs tabbed at a broadcast-quality level of up to $6 million per hour.

The company didn’t disclose investor names in this round, but said it included new and existing investors that are “studios, major technology companies, strategic partners and financial investors.”

Investors in the initial round included Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony, Viacom, AT&T, Lionsgate, MGM, ITV and Entertainment One (which is now a Hasbro division), Alibaba, Madrone Capital Partners, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Liberty Global. 

The company is hoping its mix of high-end episodic stories from Hollywood notables, unscripted content and the Daily Essentials offerings can entice mobile users to sign up for subscriptions. The service’s ad-supported version will cost about $5 a month, an ad-free version will cost about $8.

Today’s announcement details a string of daily news programs that will be part of what Quibi calls its “Daily Essentials,” news and information programming designed to keep audiences checking in multiple times a day.

“We think that it’s an opportunity to have daily news programming as a big differentiator, particularly at the level of execution we’re setting out to do,” said Ryan Kadro, Quibi’s head of news programming, about the Daily Essentials. “It’s one-stop shopping for whatever you’re setting out to do, news, sports, music, entertainment.”

The new shows include:

  • Around the World from BBC News, featuring coverage of international stories. The 5-minute show will post at noon daily on weekdays, recorded at the BBC’s London headquarters.
  • Morning Report and Evening Report, posting daily from NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York on weekdays and running for 6 minutes each. On weekends, NBC will provide Saturday Report and Sunday Report, each with more feature-oriented material, on their respective mornings. All the shows will be created at a new studio in 30 Rock, and will routinely feature mixed-reality technologies for immersive storytelling.
  • Pulso News from NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo. The daily newscast will be hosted by Andrea Martinez and will target the English-speaking LatinX market.
  • For the Cultura, from Telemundo, featuring anchors Krystal Vega and Freddy Lomeli. The show will focus on pop-culture stories seen through a LatinX lens.

Quibi sifted through 150 pitches from about 80 media companies before settling on the providers announced in recent days, Kadro said.

“We really wanted to have best-in-class brands,” Kadro said. “Most of these demonstrated their ability to reach younger demographics on these new platforms. The BBC doesn’t come off its platforms often, but it’s the first- or second-most trusted news brand out there.”

Other previously announced “Essentials” programs include 60 in 6 from CBS, though Kadro was careful to say the show will differ significantly from and won’t be a distillation of that network’s long-running 60 Minutes magazine show; Weather Today from The Weather Channel; and The Replay, featuring sports and breaking news from ESPN.

Other Daily Essentials programming will focus on film and entertainment news, video games, and celebrity gossip, from media outlets such as Comcast-owned E! and Rotten Tomatoes, Vox Media’s Polygon, and AT&T-owned TMZ.

All of the news providers will face the challenge of creating daily content that works in Quibi’s new “Turnstyle” interface, which fills a mobile screen with the image, whether a phone is held in portrait or landscape mode.

That approach is visually more engaging for users and a striking difference from typical mobile video experiences. But video editors I’ve interviewed who worked on Quibi projects say it can also significantly increase post-production costs and time needed for a given show.

Kadro said the partner producers have all been using different approaches to create content for the Turnstyle interface, but are constantly sharing notes and comparing approaches, a process abetted by Quibi itself.

“It’s been one of the exciting things learning what the best practices are,” Kadro said. “The community of Quibi creators has come together and are willing to share.”

Also this week, Katzenberg’s old boss, IAC Chairman Barry Diller, said on an NBC News podcast that he’s neither bearish nor bullish on Quibi, but admired its “giant and gutsy speculation.”

“Most people when they hear it aren’t overwhelmed by the idea, which makes it all the gutsier,” Diller said on the Byers Market Podcast.