Coronavirus Updates: Quibi's Possible Ad Woes; Warner's IPO Hopes; Disney Plans to Open Florida Theme Park
Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.
- Quibi may be struggling in advertising amid concerns about COVID-19 expenses
- Disney to propose the opening of Florida's Disney World, could be blueprint for California
- Are IPOs poised to make a comeback? Warner Music Group hopes so
Quibi may be struggling in advertising amid concerns about COVID-19 expenses
Quibi's struggles continue, as several major advertisers are asking to defer or extend their payment, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The requests come from Pepsi, Taco Bell, Anheuser-Busch and Walmart, and stem from the impact the coronavirus has had on the advertisers' business or concerns that the short-form video service launched in April is struggling to meet its viewer targets.
Either way, it's more bad news for the startup that previously blazed its way to $1.75 billion in funding before ever acquiring a customer. The ability of Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, Quibi's leaders, to charm content creators and woo advertisers was widely considered the platform's secret sauce leading up to launch.
The private, Hollywood-based company raised $150 million worth of advertising from 10 companies that were presumably excited by Quibi's attempt to turn consumers' "on-the-go" moments into viewing time. But it's been a bumpy seven weeks. Subscriber numbers have disappointed, a patent infringement lawsuit lingers, and the service's core value proposition has been effectively wiped out by the stay-at-home reality ushered in by the coronavirus. The Journal also reported that Whitman, who has told dot.LA that she is committed to playing a long game, has instituted cost-cutting measures, including slowing down hiring.
Are IPOs poised to make a comeback? Warner Music Group hopes so
Warner Music Group announced is moving forward with its IPO, selling 13.7% of the company's common stock at $23 to $26 a share. That would bring the value of the Los Angeles-based company to about $13.3 billion. The company plans to offer 70 million shares at the launch, but no date has been set yet.
The IPO would be one of the first big L.A. companies to wade into the public markets, and may represent a bit more optimism that the music industry is moving toward a streaming world — a pivot that is already paying off amid the pandemic for companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. HBO, the cable channeled owned by AT&T, launches its HBO Max service on Wednesday.
Warner Music represents hundreds of top artists, ranging from Cardi B to David Bowie, and may use the IPO to position itself in a COVID-19 world where artists aren't able to perform in arenas or stadiums. Live Nation, a Beverly Hills-based entertainment company, recently furloughed hundreds of staff as the company was unable to sell tickets to events.
Disney to propose opening Florida's Disney World, could be blueprint for California parks
The Walt Disney Co. announced that Walt Disney World Resort executives will submit a proposal Wednesday to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force in Florida for a phased reopening of the resort's theme parks. Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations, will give a virtual presentation of the proposed approach during the task force's online meeting
The results could pave the way for Disney and other California theme parks closed by COVID-19 may reopen once the state hits the third stage of reopening. The state is currently on stage two, and there is no exact time frame when other non-essential business can open their doors — or turnstiles at Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California.
"Theme parks are slated to open in Stage 3 if the rate of spread of COVID-19 and hospitalizations remain stable," according to California Health and Human Services Agency spokesperson Kate Folmar.
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Tech agricultural unicorn Plenty is gearing up to hire 50 full-time employees to run a new vertical farm monitored by robots in Compton.
The farm, which will open in 2021, will grow leafy greens and Driscoll's branded strawberries, showcasing Plenty's indoor hydroponic farming. CEO and co-founder Matt Barnard says it's more efficient than traditional farming, which is weather-sensitive and requires large plots of land.
- L.A.-based Output, a bootstrapped business founded in 2013 to help musicians overcome writer's block, announced its first ever fundraise, of $45 million from Summit Partners.
- The company serves a range of musicians from hobbyists to professionals, providing them a library of loops and samples that they can then manipulate into unique songs of their own.
- Immediate plans are to nearly double its staff and expand its product platform, with future goals of leading the evolution of digital music production.
Gregg Lehrman was no stranger to music composition. He had worked under world-famous composers such as Hans Zimmer writing music for film and TV and had produced big projects with BMG music publishing. But after setting out on his own, he found himself suffering from writer's block.
So, he said, "I made a piece of software for myself, as a music-maker — with no intention of starting a company."
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