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Quibi’s Hard News Teams Reflect on Launch Amid Coronavirus: ‘Trust the Process’

The mobile-only platform’s head of news Ryan Kadro says he’s been impressed with the show teams so far

Quibi, the mobile-only streaming service full of “quick bites,” launched Monday and along with its entertainment programming came a fresh batch of news shows. When those shows were in development, no one could have predicted they’d launch during a historic pandemic, but each show’s team took the sudden new reality — and the duty of reporting on it — in stride.

“Nothing’s predictable about the situation. I think everything about this is unprecedented and I guess, quite frankly, historic,” said Madeleine Haeringer, who executive produces “The Report,” NBC News’ Quibi offering. “So our plans are going to have to be just as adaptable.”

Her chat with TheWrap, like everyone else’s during this time, was done from her home, where she has been working for weeks to oversee the launch of a suddenly-remote show that was very much expected to be broadcast from a studio just weeks ago.

The first of Quibi’s news shows to go entirely remote during the coronavirus crisis, according to the platform’s head of news Ryan Kadro, was “Around the World by BBC News.” The show, he said, delivered “really great” work.

“That really proved to us that this was possible,” Kadro said, adding that with the unpredictability of this news cycle, he and his teams have just had to “trust the process.”

Anchor Ben Bland told TheWrap more about how that happened: “We’ve been developing ‘Around The World’ with Quibi for several months and we got to a stage about three weeks before launch where it was in pretty solid shape,” he said via email. 

“Then the coronavirus situation started getting very serious. We are a close-knit dedicated team working on this show and the main priority always has to be people’s health and well-being. So we took the decision to move people home. After all, when our news bulletins are telling people only to travel to work if it’s essential, could we justify going in to central London to the BBC’s main newsroom in Broadcasting House potentially exposing all our team to risk? Remarkably, within two days we had put together our first pilot episode to be produced with our producers, designers and editors all working remotely. We had entirely restructured our way of working and the key was to not over-complicate things.”

Kadro praised the show teams, saying, “We have amazing partners who really embrace the challenges. We’re able to put safety for their employees first but also, you know, completely reinvent workflows.” Still, he said, the focus of Quibi’s news section has remained the same: The platform wants to provide efficient, contextualized news that takes viewers past just the headlines, no matter the topic.

Bland agreed, musing that “the first goal is to make something that people see in the first week and enjoy. By that, I mean that they feel it informs them, teaches them something new and gives them something to smile about too.”

The people behind the shows can smile along with the audience, as well: TheWrap has learned that there were over 830,000 downloads of the app in its first three days on the market.