Months before Quibi launches its new streaming platform, CEO Meg Whitman is already apologizing for remarks she made at a staff meeting.
Whitman, a tech veteran who once helmed eBay and HP, described how journalists build a relationship with sources as being similar to how sexual predators groom their child victims, according to news site the Information.
Whitman acknowledged she made the comments in an interview with Variety.
“I made a terrible mistake,” Whitman said, according to a videotaped interview posted Friday on the trade magazine’s website. “I used an analogy that was plain inappropriate and just plain wrong.”
Whitman said she has had a long history with journalists and respects them and the role they play.
“I didn’t intend it and it’s not at all how I think, how I feel,” Whitman said.
Quibi Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg called Whitman a “quality human being” in the Variety interview as the executives were attending the Sundance Film Festival.
“An unfortunate choice of words that have nothing to do with who she is,” he added.
A spokeswoman for Quibi declined comment.
The verbal gaffe is a black eye and distraction for Quibi at a time when the Hollywood company should be focused on educating people about its new subscription streaming service. Unlike other platforms, Quibi is creating short-form, quality videos made for mobile phones that target millennials. Some of the videos on Quibi include cinematic stories told in short chapters that are 10 minutes or less.
The service, which launches in April, has already received some skepticism from industry observers because other efforts to bring large audiences to premium mobile-first shows have had mixed results. Quibi will cost subscribers about $5 a month with ads and about $8 a month without ads.
The company is working with high-profile directors including Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke on projects and has already sold out of its $150 million ad inventory for its first year. Quibi raised an initial $1 billion round of financing and recently garnered an additional $400 million in funding.
Several high-level executives, including former DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, have left before Quibi’s launch.