Actor Reese Witherspoon received a seven-figure payday from the streaming platform Quibi, which has caused some blowback among the company's staff. The Legally Blonde star was paid $6 million to narrate the short-form nature docuseries Fierce Queens, though the problem stems from Quibi's less-than-stellar launch and subsequent cutbacks.
"Quibi may have to implement cutbacks, and people are fuming that stars like Reese got paid millions," a source told Page Six. They also described the mood around the office as "dark," as they've cut overtime for lower-level staff and quietly laid a number of others off. There's also the fact that Fierce Queens, which is co-produced by BBC's Natural History Unit, is one of the lowest-performing shows on the platform. Jim Toth, who's married to Witherspoon, also left a high-profile gig of 23 years to become head of Quibi's content acquisition and talent.
A spokesperson for Quibi disputed the reports of Witherspoon's salary, calling them "inaccurate." They also cited that senior leadership took a voluntary 10 percent pay cut, "because it's the right thing to do." They went on to be optimistic about the company's future. "As we shared in our most recent company meeting, the best is yet to come. We are confident in Quibi and the work that we are creating every day."
After its initial launch in April, Quibi faced immediate backlash from users who found out that the mobile-only platform meant that the content could only be viewed on a mobile device. Roughly one month after its launch, it boasts 3.5 million app downloads and 1.3 million active users, which is far short of initial expectations.
Speaking to the New York Times in May, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg blamed the slow start on the coronavirus pandemic. "I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus," Katzenberg said. "Everything. But we own it. Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch? The answer is no. It's not up to what we wanted. It's not close to what we wanted."
Quibi's programming is limited to installments of 10 minutes or less, which was designed for commuters. However, the widespread Stay at Home orders that went into effect in March in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus meant fewer people were traveling to and from work. According to Sensor Tower, the app isn't currently in the top-1000 of most-downloaded apps.