If you were trying to come up with the least tragic, still vaguely unfortunate thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic—possibly as part of some drunkenly conceived and hastily-assembled game show, designed to be distributed in “quick bite” chunks for the phone-addicted and attention-deprived—it might be the way that it colored the launch of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi. Not, to be clear, that we’re suggesting that Quibi would have been some massive success in a world where people didn’t end up trapped in their homes for literal months on end. (Not even the raw power of Reese Witherspoon talking over animal footage of badass lady leopards could promise that.) It’s just that, now, Quibi’s always going to have an asterisk next to its name in the record books, allowing people to argue that it was a good idea, actually, cruelly sabotaged by the tides of history.
Not that the phones-only video streaming service is dead, or anything! In fact, it’s doing just fine, just fine indeed, something that Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman would like to make exceedingly clear. Quibi’s doing great, and no layoffs are planned. Wait, who said layoffs? Not Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, who also announced this week that they’re taking a 10 percent pay cut, for reasons of fun and pleasure only.
Variety reports on the news, as the duo responds to rumors floated in The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal that the company was considering cutting staff to make up for the fact that nobody likes Quibi very much. “We are not laying off staff as a part of cost-saving measures,” the pair said in a memo to staff, noting that they’ve even hired more people to work at the company in recent weeks, a business decision we can only describe as “extremely Turnstyle.”
Quibi hasn’t been exactly forthcoming with its ongoing download numbers, although it made headlines shortly after launch when it swiftly dropped out of the “most downloaded” section of most mobile storefronts. (Katzenberg blames COVID.) The company recently issued renewal notices for two of its shows, though, Thanks A Million and Dishmantled, suggesting that it’s willing to keep this thing going for as long as it needs to to make Quibi a household not-actually-a-word.