The analog stopwatch of “60 Minutes” is getting a digital makeover for Quibi, the mobile subscription TV service founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The Los Angeles-based Quibi and CBS News will announce today that “60 Minutes” is producing an original weekly six-minute program called “60 in 6,” designed for the new service’s target audience of millennial-age online video consumers. The short-form program will have its own stories and correspondents who will be younger than the longtimers who populate the Sunday night TV franchise.
The deal is the second Quibi has made with a broadcast network news division. In July, Quibi announced it would carry a twice-daily NBC News-produced newscast aimed at millennial viewers. The company has also aligned with Walt Disney Co.'s sports media behemoth ESPN, which will provide daily sports programming to the service.
CBS News will receive a license fee from Quibi for the program, the terms of which were not disclosed. The program will launch in April.
For CBS, “60 in 6" is an opportunity to get the 51-year-old franchise in front of younger viewers. Although “60 Minutes” remains one of the most-watched prime-time programs, its audience has been aging. In the 2018-19 TV season, the median age for “60 Minutes” viewers was 64.9.
The producers of “60 Minutes” have historically been reluctant to alter the program’s successful formula, which has made it the gold standard in TV journalism. Back in the 1990s, the late founding executive producer Don Hewitt fought hard against doing a second weekly edition of the program, “60 Minutes II,” when prime-time newsmagazines were at their peak in viewer popularity.
But Bill Owens, the program’s current executive producer, said the flight of younger viewers to online video has made it necessary for “60 Minutes” to expand its reach on digital platforms.
“We’ve got to go where the eyeballs are,” Owens said in an interview.
A bite-size version of “60 Minutes” may seem out of character for a program whose segments run 13 minutes or longer.
But Owens said “60 in 6" will have the same reporting and production standards as the Sunday program. A senior producer will be dedicated to the Quibi version who will report to Owens and his deputy Tanya Simon. New correspondents from outside of CBS News will be hired for the program.
“It’s going to be ‘60 Minutes’ in a shorter version,” Owens said. “We won’t change the reporting or the way we tell our stories. It’s just the platform that’s changing.”
Owens said “60 in 6" could interview subjects that appeal to younger audiences that might not be a fit for the Sunday broadcast. But the approach will still be the serious, deeply reported journalism for which the program is known.
“Perhaps there is a celebrity who wouldn’t feel right on ’60 Minutes’ on Sunday who we would do on the Quibi show, but there won’t be any pandering,” Owens said. “We’re still going to be bringing them the news. That’s what they want.”
Katzenberg, chairman of Quibi, said partnering with recognizable brand names that have reputations for producing high-quality content is key to the company’s strategy of making the service compelling to users who have a wide array of digital video sources.
“Quibi is a chance to reach the next generation of ‘60 Minutes’ fans and to introduce the program to them in a completely new and unique way,” Katzenberg said in interview. “For someone like me who has watched every episode for 52 seasons, my personal pride with this association is extraordinary.”
Katzenberg believes the Quibi exposure can bring more viewers to the CBS program.
The concept of creating a Quibi version of “60 Minutes” came from Ryan Kadro, who oversees the news content for the service. Kadro is a CBS News veteran, having served at “CBS This Morning,” where he was executive producer from 2016 through 2018. Owens was immediately interested after Quibi made the approach several months ago.
Owens said he is also looking at other ways to beef up the digital presence of “60 Minutes,” including a revamp of its website.
“We want to make sure people have access to our material,” he said.