Just when you thought you had a handle on content streaming (Netflix: check, Disney+: check), a new player has emerged with the potential to shake things up all over again. Backed by a boatload of cash and the imprimatur of Hollywood royalty like Steven Spielberg, Quibi is poised to carve a unique niche in a crowded field. Read on to learn more.
What Is Quibi?
Quibi is a new premium streaming service that imposes a cap on programming time: the name Quibi, in fact, is shorthand for “quick bites” of video. Quibi aims to showcase stories of 10 minutes or less; content is meant to be viewed specifically on one’s mobile phone. The platform, founded by chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, has installed tech vet Meg Whitman as the CEO, and investors include studios like Walt Disney Co. and WarnerMedia.
What Kind of Content Will Be on Quibi?
Given the unique mobile phone focus, Quibi will be generating all new content. As Whitman tells Marketplace, “We will be the first streaming service that launches without a library.” As Whitman sees it, starting from ground zero means an opportunity to create something truly fresh: “We have . . . invested significantly in content. This is all about finding the great stories, attaching the great actors and actresses to it and getting them excited about doing something entirely new.”
Quibi expects to deliver 175 shows and 8,500 episodes in its first year. The content promises to be a diverse mix, from long-form narratives to reality programming, documentaries, food shows, and daily news programs. Given Quibi’s format, the long-form narratives will be delivered in bite-sized chunks, serial fashion (think Dickens and the serial way he delivered novels like Pickwick Papers). Whitman is quick to stress that short format doesn’t mean inferior quality. “Nothing’s lesser about the movies [we’re developing] other than the chapterized way we deliver them,” Whitman says.
Content can be downloaded, so users won’t need an active Internet connection to view programming. And quality of the viewing experience is a prime mandate. As Whitman told Marketplace, “[P]eople are watching a lot of videos on their mobile phone today, but it’s an uneven experience. Sometimes, if you’re holding the phone in portrait, it’s a little postage-stamp size, then you turn it horizontally, it’s got big black lines. Some content is only available in portrait, some is only available in landscape . . . we have to be able to have seamless portrait-to-landscape rotation with full-screen video.” To that end, the company is employing what Whitman calls “compression technology,” and reportedly working with Google to ensure flawless video streams. Whitman also notes, “[W]e shot, obviously, to the aspect ratio of the phone.”
How Is Quibi Different from YouTube and Other Platforms?
As noted, story lengths on Quibi are capped at 10 minutes. And Quibi content has specifically been created for viewing on a mobile phone.
There is a distinction between what Quibi promises and the content made for mobile phones on free platforms like, say, TikTok. Services like TikTok offer user-generated content. By contrast, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke are collaborating with Quibi to create programs designed specifically for viewing via Quibi, sometimes even at certain times: “Spielberg’s After Dark” series will only appear on the service at night, for example. An untitled show devoted to zombies is reportedly being discussed with Guillermo del Toro. User experience will also be informed by how customers hold their phones: changing from vertical to horizon orientation will change what the viewer sees.
Who Is the Target Audience for Quibi?
The target audience is Millennials—ages 18 to 44. The idea is that the platform will especially appeal to consumers on the go: someone waiting in line at the bank, say, or taking a quick bus ride during which 10 minutes of content might be the perfect diversion.
When Does Quibi Launch?
The platform is due to launch in the United States on April 6, 2020, but as Whitman notes, “you don’t have to wait till then to get involved.” On Quibi.com, you can learn about new shows, the technology, and any milestones before launch date. Whitman adds, “We’ll let you know on April 6 when you can download the app from either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.”
What Advertising Opportunities Exist on Quibi?
There will indeed be opportunities for advertisers, as users will be invited to choose between Quibi with or without ads. The service will launch, for viewers in the United States, at $4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 a month without. Whitman shares with Marketplace, “We think that most [consumers] will pick the ad-supported version because it’s a very light ad load. It’s only 2.5 minutes per hour of watching, which is much less than prime time TV, which is 17.5 minutes of advertising for every hour that you watch.” Ads will appear before a Quibi show begins and last six, 10, or 15 seconds. They will be unskippable. Advertisers already onboard include Discover, General Mills, Taco Bell, Walmart, and PepsiCo.
Quibi programming will also come with ratings to help advertisers determine whether a show is geared to mature audiences. At the WSJ Tech Live conference in October 2019, Whitman said, “[Marketers] can feel safe that their brand shows up next to content that they’re OK with.”
And because Quibi programming is structured around serialized chapters, the platform is looking into an alternative where advertisers could serialize their ads, too.
What Kind of Reception Has Quibi Received?
It’s a mixed one. Naysayers insist the endeavor is a gamble, and that the subscription fee will discourage consumers used to video content that can be viewed for free on platforms like YouTube. Katzenberg, however, is confident. “I think we are doing something that is now such a well established consumer habit,” he told NewsDio. “There are 2.5 billion people walking with these televisions in their pocket. They are already watching a billion hours of content every day. I just know that it will work.”
Quibi has tried to get out in front of its critics by building visibility through some (presumably expensive) ads during the 2020 Super Bowls and Oscars.
There’s no denying Quibi has attracted some heavyweights to create content. Will consumers be willing to pay for that content? Only time will tell.
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