Opinion | Jeffrey Katzenberg Talks About His Billion-Dollar Flop

Produced by ‘Sway’

The public failure of his start-up Quibi hasn’t stopped Jeffrey Katzenberg from doubling down on tech. A Hollywood power broker, he headed up Disney in the 1980s and ’90s and co-founded a rival studio, DreamWorks, before finding a puzzle he could not yet solve: getting people to pay for short-format content. Investors gave him and the former Hewlett-Packard C.E.O. and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman $1.75 billion to build a video platform, but not enough customers opened up their wallets, at $4.99 a month, and Quibi folded within a year of its launch. Katzenberg says the problems were product-market fit and the Covid pandemic, not competition from TikTok or YouTube.

[You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Katzenberg delve into Quibi’s demise, the shifting power dynamics in Hollywood and his pivot to Silicon Valley. They also discuss his influence in another sphere: politics. And the former Hollywood executive, who co-chaired a fund-raiser to help fend off California’s recent recall effort, offers some advice to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

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“Sway” is produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Matt Kwong, Daphne Chen and Caitlin O’Keefe and edited by Nayeema Raza; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; mixing by Carole Sabouraud and Sonia Herrero; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Liriel Higa.

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