Quibi’s disgruntled staff are so mad that Reese Witherspoon got paid millions

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30 Rock was so prescient in so many ways – they practically predicted Quibi, the subscription service app offering short-content which will likely be exclusively viewed on phones. Jack Doneghey would have called it the future of programming. But when Jeffrey Katzenberg launched Quibi earlier this year, he watched his big new thing become dead on arrival. Quibi was supposed to compete with Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Prime. Instead, the service has hemorrhaged money. Quibi was met with a resounding “who cares.” Katzenberg even tried to blame the pandemic on Quibi’s failure, only no one was buying it. One of the many problems with Quibi is that Katzenberg poured money into it and thought if he just hired tons of A-list talent, like Jennifer Lopez, LeBron James and Reese Witherspoon, then magically the sh-t would be a hit. Not so much. So after throwing millions at A-listers, Quibi is letting tons of staffers go. And they are pissed.

Quibi staff are seething on the savanna after Reese Witherspoon was paid $6 million to narrate a nature show on the troubled platform where her husband works. Witherspoon voices the show “Fierce Queens,” which gives a feminist slant to nature docs by exploring heroic female animals including cheetahs, hyenas and ant queens, telling viewers: “Imagine a world where females call all the shots.”

But Page Six is told that the show, produced by the BBC’s Natural History Unit, has been one of the weakest performers on Quibi, as one source said: “Quibi may have to implement cutbacks, and people are fuming that stars like Reese got paid millions.”

Witherspoon’s husband, Jim Toth, recently left his high-profile gig at CAA after 23 years to work at Jeffrey Katzenberg’s startup as head of content acquisition and talent. A huge roster of stars — from J.Lo to LeBron James — were hired to make content. But after launching a service that offers supershort programming, aimed at commuters and people on the go, Quibi’s “quick bites” have been a bad fit for viewers stuck in lockdown. 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. Hypebeast reported on Tuesday that with over $1.7 billion in funding, Quibi has no shortage of cash, but its subscription service and ad revenue are crucial to continuing to make content. And, more worryingly, most subscribers are coming to the end of their free 90-day trials. As of May, one month after launch, it recorded more than 3.5 million app downloads and 1.3 million active users, disappointing figures for co-founder and former Disney studio boss Katzenberg. “It’s not up to what we wanted,” he said in May. “It’s not close to what we wanted.”

[From Page Six]

I mean, I think it’s stupid that Reese’s husband made sure that Reese was getting paid so much, but the way all of those celebrities were hyping their Quibi deals told me that ALL of them were getting multi-million paychecks, not just Reese. As I said, Katzenberg thought he could just throw money at A-listers and everything would work out. And people just weren’t into it. It was just another subscription service and people didn’t care. It sucks for all of those people losing their Quibi jobs, and it sucks that Katzenberg put all of that money into it.

Jeffrey Katzenberg at a public appearanc...

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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45 Responses to “Quibi’s disgruntled staff are so mad that Reese Witherspoon got paid millions”

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  1. Granger says:

    There are 7 episodes of Fierce Queens, and each of them is just 8 minutes long. Reese got paid $6m for THAT? Yeah, if I were a Quibi staffer, I’d be furious.

    • AMM says:

      To be fair, she’s reportedly paid between 15-20 million per movie. So less than half of that for around an hour of content adds up.

      • DiegoInSF says:

        Movies take months to film, a voiceover doesn’t take that long. I mean, if you can get that kind of money, get it, I know I would.

      • Mustang Sally says:

        Exactly. And we complain about women in Hollywood not earning equal pay – and now there is complaining that she earned her worth.

      • Meg says:

        Exactly! Would this story be coming out if reese were a man? I remember the complaints when katy Perry got a huge payday for american idol, tabloids literally saying ‘now theres no money left for anyone else’ which is exactly how women are discouraged from asking for what theyre worth, youre not being a team player youre being selfish etc

      • holly hobby says:

        Whether its deserved if Reese “were a man” isn’t the issue here. They threw money at all those celebs for the short content. The author held her up as an example because not only did she earn big bucks, she was a nepotism hire (her hubby is in control of content). So it’s not just a “woman” thing and I wish people would stop saying it’s because of that. The nepotism hire probably pissed the staff off too.

      • Ellie says:

        Not sure you can say she was a nepotism hire. She is a world famous and in demand actress, commanding high fees for television and film.

      • AMM says:

        One of the worlds highest paid female actresses isn’t a nepotism hire. If anything, she was doing them a favor.

  2. H says:

    I did the 2 week trial (90 days where!?!?) Huge lack of content and it sucks watching movies in vertical mode (you can’t change it and THAT was truly the biggest annoyance) They should focus on getting tiktok stars on there and make it a new YouTube thing.

  3. Lauren says:

    If I want to watch short content, I’ll watch YouTube for free. Why would I pay for that? Just because celebrities are in it? Why would anyone think that would real people in?

    • Noki says:

      I thought so too,the idea seemed so stupid unless there are other feautres that are appealing not available on youtube. If i have between 5 – 10 mins to spare watching anything i go to youtube.

  4. FHMom says:

    The platform sounds as stupid now as it did when suggested on 3rd Rock. I can’t blame Reese or anyone else for taking the money, though. The staffers should be angry with their boss, not Reese.

    • Bella says:

      Exactly what I was going to say. Why pick on Witherspoon? The concept was flawed and the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic made it fail even harder. Witherspoon is not responsible for either of those things.

    • Cat says:

      Yeah, this. Reese keep at a level where she gets big money, so she got paid. So what? Good for her. They wanted star power, they got it.

      It’s not her fault it sounds like the app was fundamentally. People whining need to woman up and realize that they worked for a company and it didn’t working out. That’s life. It’s not like they worked there 30 years and got booted.

    • minx says:

      Exactly. Why blame her? Silly.

    • lucy2 says:

      I agree, it never was an appealing idea to me.
      I’m very sorry for those losing their job, but they should be mad at Katzenberg (who is a BILLIONaire) for throwing money at celebrities.

  5. damejudi says:

    Lol that Katzenberg blamed the pandemic. The pandemic means that you had a captive audience starved for content.

    Did he offer a free month or free 90 days to get people to try it?

    • AMM says:

      It makes some sense though. The idea of the app was that they were full episodes in 5-10 minutes, so you could watch while on the train or even standing in line. But with the lockdowns, no one wants to binge 10 minute episodes. They want long content to fill the time.

      • damejudi says:

        Fair point.

        My question is, how did Quibi try to “pivot” and adapt to the coronavirus reality?

        Surprising, that’s all.

      • sa says:

        I agree @AMM.

        Also, if I’m watching during a commute I’m fine watching on my phone, it’s my only option. But if I’m home, I have a tv to watch shows on, there’s no reason to watch something I can only watch on my phone.

    • Kate says:

      Yeah I mean how many people have flocked to tiktok since the lockdown with all this extra time on their hands? I have lost hours scrolling through it watching 15-60 second clips one after the other. I think Quibi just didn’t advertise – I only ever heard of it in passing here in an article or two about Chrissy Teigen but I haven’t heard about it from a single person. I didn’t even know it was up and running yet.

      • Ellie says:

        Same! I barely heard of it except relating to the problems its had. Maybe I am not a target audience (in Australia) but they really needed better online ads. I am bombarded with ads for Netflix and Stan which I already have. Why not this new one?

        I’ve had loads of friends recommend short snippet tv shows you can have in the background while cooking or doing something else – this service might be perfect for that

  6. LunaSF says:

    The whole idea is so dumb IMO. The fact that Reese was paid millions for narrating a short documentary while the workers get their hours and jobs cut is everything that is wrong with American corporations. We just constantly screw over employees while the rich get richer (And I’m not blaming Reese, I would take the money too but maybe donate some to an employee relief fund or something).

  7. Nicole says:

    Reese performed work as per her negotiated contract. Is the amount ridiculous? Maybe. Is that Reese’s fault? No. I’m disappointed in those who view this situation as Reese’s problem. In this scenario, she was the employee, and she got paid. Is anyone trotting out LeBron James, or the founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg, as the problem?

    • Cidee says:

      This.

    • Lwt00 says:

      You nailed it.

      Reese is not the problem (also, it’s not clear from the post but Toth was her longtime agent before he was her husband. Of course he made sure she got paid a premium, it’s been their way since the beginning of their association).

      Let’s not forget that Quibi was Katzenberg’s petulant response to being ousted from Freamworks, which he nearly ran into the ground. It was a poorly conceived comeback from the start. How he got that funding in the first place is baffling.

    • holly hobby says:

      Reese was a nepotism hire. Since her hubby is in charge of content, do you think he has any input in the salary? Think about that. It’s not as simple as him hiring J Lo and LeBron. Notice those two weren’t held up? J Lo is a woman too.

  8. lizardqueen says:

    I love it when shit bombs bc people are still expected to throw their money at anything featuring famous people but then…they don’t.

  9. Sass says:

    Yeah, IF it’s true, they’re angry at the wrong people.

    That article reads like a hit piece. But then again, consider the source.

    • holly hobby says:

      Well considering her hubby is part of that management, the staff aimed where it hurt.

  10. KBeth says:

    Sorry, don’t see how this is Reese’s fault. Celebrities get paid millions for just about everything they do….even when it’s crap.
    This idea was crap.

  11. FilmTurtle says:

    Erm, they made it difficult or impossible to share the content, screencap, etc. So people couldn’t easily talk about it on social media. That killed it as much as anything. Whose bright idea was that? (Apple TV had the same problem with vertical orientation, when no one watches on their phones like that. What a dumb thing to do.)

    Also really annoying that “low-level staffers” are suffering if they have still have plenty of cash on hand to burn. Hollywood really sucks sometimes.

  12. Suzieq359 says:

    I think folks are looking at Reese in particular because her husband is there. Which came first? Was she approached and said yes I’ll do it if you hire my husband or did the husband have the opportunity and brought her along? Either way there’s nepotism and that’s never good for employee morale especially when you have low level employees losing their jobs and Reese and her husband making big money as the company falters.

    • holly hobby says:

      Yes I was saying the same thing up there! Based on the article, it looks like hubby entered the corp first because they said he quit his job at CAA to work for this place. He is in charge of content. Yes he hired JLo and LeBron too but people aren’t holding them up because he isn’t married to those two.

  13. AppleTartin says:

    Maybe if you were able to cast it to your TV or there was a Roku app it would be more desirable. But the thought everyone would watch it on the subway or bus. Was just short minded. I got the 2 week free trial to just watch Reno 911 reboot. And it was a hollow version of the original.

    You can’t just throw crap on a wall and expect everyone to say it’s Picasso. Sadly, I think we are at the end of the new golden age of TV. Content is getting sub-par again.

  14. Annabel says:

    My takeaway from this is that Witherspoon has an excellent agent who got the best possible deal for his or her client. I realize that resentment of highly paid women is a tradition in this country, but the anger of the Quibi staffers seems kind of misdirected to me.

  15. Mew says:

    For once woman getting paid. Of course people are losing their minds.

  16. LidiaJara says:

    I love that Katzenberg looked at TikTok and went – that, but you have to pay for it, there’s no user content or cross-platform sharing, and we hire people Gen Z has never heard of like Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Richie. Who was the target demo???

    • Other Renee says:

      That’s a very good point about the target demographics, Lidiajara. If I have five minutes to watch something quick, I’ll watch a clip of The Big Bang Theory on Facebook. Those clips just keep on scrolling. For free. Why on earth would I watch something I had to actually pay for? Reese Witherspoon narrating a nature series? Yeah right! 😆 🤣

    • Anne Call says:

      Also the proliferation of apps is becoming really annoying. I got rid of cable for a reason, not to have to spend $5.99 a month on 15 different streaming services.

  17. reef says:

    It’s bizarre an entire network was created based on false info that wiped out many newsrooms. The programming on Quibi is geared toward folks too old to be watching whole shows on their phone. My eyes are bad.

  18. Lisa says:

    Misdirected anger.

  19. Blueskies says:

    Definitely misdirected anger, but the sums these celebrities make for anything and everything, good lord. Six million in pocket change.

  20. Adream says:

    Of all the platforms and apps I’ve used, Quibli is by far the best for my short attention span. YouTube is impossible to search for content or has long ads. Netflix shows are too long. It has modern content intended for a certain type of audience and I’m here for it. I can binge watch a series or watch in bits. Its great so many women on there are getting produced or paid for their work. Everyone is letting go of staff so theres no surprises there.

  21. Bread and Circuses says:

    They’ve done studies on this, and stars don’t make movies into hit movies.

    It has to be a good movie to become a hit movie (for a sufficiently broad definition of “good”).

    What stars help with is getting movies funded and hence made in the first place. They dazzle investors into investing, but they don’t dazzle audiences into paying to watch a weak movie.

    So this company tried to dazzle the wrong people with star power. Contrary to popular belief, that’s not how it works.