The streaming service Quibi, which in the lead up to its launch announced a slate of shows helmed by the likes of Zac Efron, Kendall Jenner, Reese Witherspoon, Chrissy Teigen, and Sophie Turner, appears to have blown their budget on stars instead of staff. A source told Page Six that while Witherspoon got a $6 million payday for narrating Fierce Queens, a nature documentary, that Quibi has implemented layoffs and “cut overtime for its lowest-level staffers.” As it related specifically to Fierce Queens, the show has been one of the “weakest performers.”
Since its launch in April, Quibi has struggled to find its audience, garnering just over a million active users. The app’s co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg told the New York Times in May that the coronavirus is to blame. But perhaps just a smidge of blame can be laid at the feet of Jim Toth, Quibi’s second founder and head of content acquisition and talent who just so happens to be married to Reese Witherspoon. Page Six reports:
The source told us that Quibi has already cut overtime for its lowest-level staffers and quietly let go of others, adding: “The mood is dark.”
It’s now fallen out of Apple’s Top 200 apps, while Sensor Tower, which measures apps’ performance, now has it at 1,007.
Maybe it wasn’t the soundest investment to pay someone $6 million dollars to talk over a barely over an hour’s worth of animal footage. Certainly, many people find Witherspoon’s voice soothing and valuable, but perhaps there was a better way to spend a portion of Quibi’s $1.8 billion budget.
Update 6/4/20: In an email to Jezebel, a rep for Quibi denied that the company is conducting layoffs to cut costs. The rep forwarded an internal memo, which states in part:
Nothing has changed since our last company meeting two weeks ago. Quibi is in a good financial position. 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. And in regard to tightening our belt, our senior leadership team has volunteered to take a 10% pay cut because it’s the right thing to do.
The memo also states, regarding Witherspoon’s rumored payment, “We are pleased with the performance of ‘Fierce Queens’; additionally, the talent compensation was utterly inaccurate.”