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DNC names Meg Whitman as a speaker, but initially leaves out Quibi

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman
Meg Whitman, Quibi’s CEO, will speak at the Democratic National Convention.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Quibi Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg is widely known as one of Hollywood’s biggest fundraisers for the Democratic Party.

So it was all the more surprising that the Democratic National Convention Committee did not list Meg Whitman’s title as CEO of Quibi when announcing her as a speaker at the convention’s opening night.

The committee described Whitman as former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, a role she has not held since 2015, and conspicuously made no mention of her current role at the Hollywood start-up.

The omission quickly became a buzzy topic on Twitter, with observers citing it as evidence of how far the fledgling streaming service is from entering the cultural zeitgeist.

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“I like how Meg Whitman is listed as ‘former CEO of Hewlett Packard,’ because no one tuning in is likely to know what a Quibi is,” tweeted Jeff Yang, an executive at New York-based cultural consultancy sparks & honey.

More than two months after its launch, the much-hyped subscription service Quibi hasn’t lived up to its promise, analysts say.

Quibi spokeswoman Gina Stikes said that Whitman’s speaker title at the DNC would be updated to include her current position at the firm and it was an oversight on the part of DNC.

DNC did not immediately return a request for comment. By late Monday afternoon, the DNC website updated Whitman’s title to “Quibi CEO and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.”

Whitman, a Republican who ran for California governor in 2010, is scheduled to speak in the part of tonight’s program under the heading “We the People Putting Country Over Party.” The convention’s opening night program runs 6-8 p.m.

Whitman joined Quibi in April 2018 after serving as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, dividing responsibilities with Katzenberg.

Their venture had lofty goals to revolutionize the entertainment industry by offering short-form videos that target cellphone users ages 18 to 44.

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But the company has faced a raft of challenges since its launch in April. The pandemic forced Quibi to pivot from its original vision of gaining viewers on the go when they’re on the subway, working out or waiting for a table at a restaurant.

Inaugural shows featuring celebrities such as Liam Hemsworth and episodes that are 10 minutes or less got mixed reviews. And so far Quibi hasn’t had a breakout hit like Disney+'s “The Mandalorian” or Apple TV+'s “The Morning Show” as the streaming arena becomes more competitive.

Earlier this year, Quibi had not met viewership targets it set for advertisers.

Quibi has made some changes, including allowing users to cast its content onto TVs and offering a free option with ads in New Zealand and Australia. In the U.S., Quibi charges monthly subscriptions of $4.99 with ads and $7.99 without ads.

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When asked about some of the challenges facing Quibi, Whitman said in a recent interview that the start-up was in its early stages.

“Category creation takes time and we knew it would take time,” Whitman said.

Quibi has renewed multiple shows, including the thriller “Most Dangerous Game,” reality cooking competition “Dishmantled” and prank show “Punk’d” hosted by Chance the Rapper. The company has also received 10 Emmy nominations for such programs as “Reno 911!” and “Most Dangerous Game.”

“Remember, we’re a small platform,” Whitman said in the interview earlier this year. “The number of viewers on our platform for a hit show might be different than on another streaming platform, but we do have some hit shows in the context of Quibi.”


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