Quibi: Mobile Streaming and Quick Entertainment

Curator's Note

When I saw this week’s theme of “Streaming Wars”, I couldn’t help but immediately think of Quibi.  The new mobile streaming app Quibi, short for “quick bits”, hit the app store on April 6th claiming to offer subscribers “big stories” all under 10 minutes. Though I don’t see it as much of a conscience, Quibi launching in the middle of a mass quarantine seems like an opportune time for getting your market’s attention.  Spending $500 million on adverstiing leading up to it's launch, Quibi reached over 2.7 million downloads its first two weeks

Claiming to release over 175 programs in its first year, Quibi is setting out to give unique viewing experiences. Offering everything from drama, reality, to daily news, Quibi is going all out when it comes to content. Featuring countless heavy-hitters in the entertainment industry, Quibi has even paired up with Steven Spielberg to create a horror series which will only be available to view at night.  There are several programs that look quite promising as far as production, including Most Dangerous Game and Survive.  The service is also offering itself up as a platform for TV show reboots, like the popular comedy series Reno 911 and Punk’d, now hosted by Chance the Rapper.  Even with the production value on its side, the service is releasing more questionable programming, like a Judge Judy style court show featuring Chrissy Teigen (Chrissy's Court) and an odd series about a sex doll starring Anna Kendrick (Dummy).

As our need for content exponentially increases, Quibi capitalizes on our supposedly decreasing attention span. This service has the possibility to change the way we consume, view, and interact with our entertainment media, broadening the landscape of mobile streaming. Even though Nielson is now reporting that people are spending more time on their phones than viewing television, I’m still not sold on the idea that mobile streaming is the future.  Netflix reported earlier this year that they will be spending $17.2 billion on original content in 2020, potentially giving them even more leverage in the "streaming war".  Quibi has the appeal of newness and content, but does it really stand a chance in a potentially over-saturated streaming market?

When thinking about Quibi and the future of mobile streaming services, it’s important to ask a few questions. What is the potential impact of a platform like this on our viewing habits? Does watching HQ content on mobile devices lessen the viewing experience? Can people take a streaming service seriously with a name like “Quibi”?

It still may be too soon to tell.


Since much of the conversation about the streaming wars has been focused on who will have the rights to popular syndicated series like Friends and The Office that have proven to attract subscribers, I find it interesting that Quibi is banking on having the ability to attract subscribers with ALL original content (and without the other revenue streams that platforms like Apple TV have). It’ll be interesting to see if consumers will be willing to pay for a subscription for unfamiliar content (in particular, beyond the original spurt of subscriptions motivated by curiosity and good marketing) when there are so many other options.

I’m also interested in Quibi’s efforts to culturally reposition short form content. In the past, short form content packaged as a narrative media (short films, web series) has tended to remain quite niche, as opposed to the easy mainstream adoption of short form content packaged as social media (Youtube, snapchat, Tik Tok). So, it’ll be interesting to see how effective Quibi’s efforts to position its short form content alongside traditional television—with Hollywood-style production budgets that reportedly reach up to $125,000 per minute of video—will be. (In that vein, Quibi was originally going to be called “New TV,” which is an even worse name than Quibi btw.)

But the financial and ad backing that Quibi already has is massive, so clearly investors see potential…

I've been thinking about Quibi's proprietary technology Turnstyle, and how it poses new developments and challenges to media creation. 

From the one episode of the one show I was able to watch (Most Dangerous Game), it appears that the filmmakers approaches content creation primarily through the widescreen format, and edited the video afterwards to fit the vertical format. In short, I don’t get the impression vertical content is filmed any different, which makes it not too great aesthetically. On social media platforms like Tik Tok, users use the vertical video format effectively, capturing bodies and faces in an effective way. It’s not that the particular dispensations of a vertical phone screen are by design bad, but that “professional” filmmaking does not have the qualities of processes to really tap into it yet. 

On a more humorous note, I did download Quibi last month, and it completely tanked the performance on my phone and make it barely usable. I thought my phone was dead, until I finally uninstalled the app (which was a struggle). Has anyone else had similar difficulties?

Interesting post on the other topical 'new' streaming platform Morgan.

Yes, despite the level of investment and appeal to advertisers, I agree Quibi has a number of challenges to establishing itself in the streaming market. I’m not convinced the focus on short form content, alongside the advantages of mobile (content anytime, anywhere) will persuade the audience (and partly generation) who have predominantly engaged with Youtube (and more recently TikTok) to spend money on this service.

Jeffrey Katzenberg says they are not a competitor with television, but chasing a share of the “60-70 min of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat” their demographic of 25 to 35 year-olds engages with each day. But this Gen-Z audience don’t pay for those services (except with their data and ad watching) – or in the case of YouTube TV haven’t signed up in anywhere near the numbers Quibi will need to reach.

Then again, that Disney as well as WarnerMedia, Sony Pictures, and NBCUniversal invested in Quibi suggests they see it as the short form equivalent to Hulu, a competitor for Youtube and other platforms popular with the younger generation, and hence peripheral to the central streaming war between the legacy media companies, Netflix and Apple.

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