TV venture from Katzenberg and Whitman draws inspiration from Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code'

  • Jeff Katzenberg and Meg Whitman are focusing their new venture Quibi around serialized short-form content that can be consumed in 10-minute increments.
  • Quibi will draw from "all the major studios" for content, Whitman said at an Axios event on Tuesday.
Jeffrey Katzenberg
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Jeffrey Katzenberg

Jeffrey Katzenberg is drawing inspiration from Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" as he puts together his new short-form video company, Quibi.

Speaking alongside Quibi CEO Meg Whitman on Tuesday at Axios' Smarter Faster Revolution event, Katzenberg said that after reading Brown's mystery thriller, a light bulb went off in his mind about media consumption. "The Da Vinci Code" has more than 100 chapters, averaging about five pages per chapter, far less than the normal 20 to 40 pages, he said.

"Publishers and editors have said to authors, if you don't want to stop in the middle of a chapter, don't write them longer," Katzenberg said, in an interview with Dan Primack of Axios, at the University of California at Los Angeles. "A series for us will be two to three hours in length but comes in breaks or chapters that can be watched on the go."

Viewers no longer have frequent stretches of 30 to 40 minutes to watch uninterrupted content, even though they consume 70 minutes of short-form content a day, Katzenberg said. They can use moments of downtime to watch chapters of serialized content in shorter increments of 10 minutes or so.

Whitman chimed in, adding that conference attendees had that amount of time before she and Katzenberg took the stage.

"You had 10 minutes," she said. "It would have been fun to watch Quibi."

Whitman, the former CEO of eBay and Hewlett-Packard, and Katzenberg, who was chairman of Walt Disney Studios before becoming CEO of DreamWorks Animation, plan to debut Quibi in late 2019. They will use content developed from "all the major studios" to give consumers a service worth paying for, Whitman said.

While Katzenberg acknowledged — somewhat humorously — that success in the venture will be "somewhere between improbable and impossible," he said that Quibi would be "skating to where the hockey puck is going," rather than pursuing the type of hour-long television shows that everyone else is chasing.

WATCH: Katzenberg and Whitman on new streaming venture