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Justin Timberlake and Kobe Bryant are in talks to make shows for NewTV
[LOS ANGELES] Pop star Justin Timberlake and basketball legend Kobe Bryant are in talks to create programmes for NewTV, according to people with knowledge of the matter, joining a startup that aims to bring HBO-like quality to short online videos.
The two globally known stars would produce and appear in the series for NewTV under the deals being discussed, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations haven't been completed.
The talks with Timberlake and Bryant offer a glimpse into the programming strategy of NewTV, which was founded by two business titans and has enticed investment from major Hollywood studios. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the long-time head of DreamWorks Animation, and Meg Whitman, the former chief executive officer of EBay and Hewlett-Packard, have raised US$1 billion to build a paid service for high-end, short-form video.
While the two have been tight-lipped about their plans, Bloomberg News has pieced together a general outline through conversations with more than a half-dozen individuals.
NewTV plans to produce more than 70 programs in its first year, about half of which will be original series, according to the people. The company plans to spend the equivalent of up to US$5 million an hour on those shows and pay the producing studios a fee on top of production costs.
The other half of NewTV's slate will be a mix of short news clips, sports and lifestyle videos. The company recently hired Janice Min, former editor-in-chief of the Hollywood Reporter, to oversee entertainment news. Scripted shows would run eight to 10 minutes, while news and other unscripted programs would last five to seven minutes.
Whitman and Katzenberg aim to release the service in late 2019. It will cost US$5 a month for those willing to watch advertisements, and US$8 a month for those who aren't.
NewTV is trying to grab a piece of a mushrooming market for mobile video by delivering Hollywood-quality programming to the short-form market and convincing viewers to pay for its programs.
The question is whether the new venture can carve out a piece of a crowded market. Consumers already spend more than two hours a day watching clips on their smartphones and have deep ties to several strong competitors, including Netflix Inc, YouTube, and social-media services like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
YouTube, the world's most popular video site, offers all sorts of short-form video at no cost. Netflix, the world's most popular paid video site, offers hundreds of TV shows and movies for a monthly fee. Media giants including Walt Disney Co, Apple Inc, AT&T Inc, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc are rushing to compete with them online.
Katzenberg and Whitman have been honing their message about why they will succeed. In a recent interview, Katzenberg, a tireless salesman, compared NewTV to HBO, an early cable network that created the tag line "It's not TV; it's HBO." Whitman then wrote down HBO in her notes, and the two used the same example on stage at a conference a few weeks later.