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Hollywood director Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP CEO Meg Whitman announced the launch of their mobile short-form video platform called Quibi at CES last week. The name is short for Quick Bites, a video style popular on platforms like Snapchat and Twitch. Quibi starts streaming high-quality programs that last less than ten minutes on April 6 in the U.S. and Canada. Subscribers can choose between an ad-supported version for $4.99 monthly or ad-free priced at $7.99/month.
The CEO of Quibi, Whitman, stood with founder and chairman Katzenberg on stage last Wednesday for a keynote address at CES. The pair announced the details of when the service will launch and briefly covered pricing. Whitman explained that Quibi is building a platform for creators to take full advantage of content on phones. Katzenberg explained that Quibi is so unique that it won’t compete with Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, or any of the other streaming services. The successful duo expects consumers to pursue more and more content on their phones as 5G ramps up network speed.
Quick Bites are short videos that engage viewers with taps and swipe navigation. Uniquely, these popular videos appear vertically to appear on a viewer’s phone. Like traditional programming, some are scripted and episodic, while others are reality-based interviews and DIY.
Most streaming content like HBO’s Game of Thrones is at least 30 minutes long and best viewed on a big screen. There was a lot of uproar after S8E3 episode “The Long Night” aired because the Battle of Winterfell screened as a cinematic experience. The problem is that GoT doesn’t play on a movie screen, and the average consumer doesn’t have a home theater.
Quibi offers a new form of mobile entertainment for younger viewers glued to their smartphones. Studies show that mobile-video viewing is increasing drastically as young adults can watch short videos on the train or during a quick break between classes.
Twitch and YouTube lean heavily on this type of user-generated content, with tons of original shorts and huge audiences. Snapchat has roughly a dozen original scripted series like Vanwatch, and Class of Lies and docuseries like Good Luck America. Instagram features vertical videos on the standalone app IGTV like LaurDIY’s newest project or the comedy of King Bach.
Only 5% of young adults in the US mainly watch TV with a digital antenna, while 60% watch television via streaming services. Advertisers and investors are paying attention. The Hollywood and Silicon Valley pair raised billions to fund the service, but taking on powerhouses like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney requires a big investment.
Company leaders describe the content as three broad categories: movies told in chapters, episodic shows, and daily essentials. Regardless of the type, though, all the videos will be ten minutes or less. Long-form movies appear in chapters, and serialized shows deliver episodes. Quibi will introduce more than 175 original shows and 8,500 short episodes in the first year and promises three hours of fresh daily content.
The Quibi duo made waves at CES with big announcements of content deals with celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Reese Witherspoon, Bill Murray, and Jennifer Lopez. The shows reportedly span scripted and unscripted series and cover topics like food, sports, and fashion. Expect to see some documentaries as well, since those are popular in short-form domains.
Viewers won’t want to miss a single chapter of the movies from Oscar-winning directors like Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, and Steven Soderbergh. They’re among the A-list producers of Quibi movies.
In keeping with the demographic and delivery methods, Quibi will keep viewers up to date with the daily essentials. News programs in small bites of five to six minutes will arrive daily from programming giants like ESPN, BBC, NBC News, and CBS “60 Minutes.”
No one has seen the app yet, so the interface is unknown. The app’s signature technology was introduced to great fanfare at CES. Quibi’s unique Turnstyle viewing feature lets users switch between portrait and landscape video instantly when they rotate their phones. Interestingly, and not so coincidentally, Samsung debuted their new 4K TV called The Sero at CES. It can rotate from horizontal to vertical - perfect for quick bite-format videos.
There’s no link to signup posted on Quibi.com yet, but you can enter your email address to get updates and special offers as the launch date of April 6th comes closer.
The service costs $4.99-per-month for two-and-a-half minutes of ads, $7.99 without ads.
Naysayers don’t believe Quibi can compete with the big streaming services. Katzenberg replies that Quibi is so different it won’t even compete in the same space, while Whitman confidently states that a crevice exists for the on-the-go platform. If the content is as high-quality as the creative talent they’ve assembled, I believe Quibi will carve out a niche or create a whole new domain. I’m old enough to remember when Netflix took a chance on streaming and redefined entertainment as we know it.
There is a broad revolution in entertainment. It’s not just cutting the cord on cable or satellite subscriptions; Gen Z grew up with smartphones and never got attached to broadcast TV. They started with YouTube and moved into streaming without ever depending on a cable subscription. They’re less pinned in by the traditional rules of television programming on their handheld devices.
The industry is desperate to land on a form of content that appeals to 18-25-year-olds. Quibi has a chance to approach entertainment differently and revolutionize what we see on our screens.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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