Over the last couple of years, Hollywood has been buzzing with the word ‘Quibi’. Everyone is talking about it, from directors to producers to network and studio executives. So what is Quibi? Let’s find out!
Quibi is an upcoming streaming service, launching April 2020, the brainchild of former Disney Chairman Jefferey Katzenberg and long time media exec working with companies like Disney and HP Meg Whitman. Before you roll your eyes and think to yourself, “another streaming service? Don’t we have enough of those already?” Let me tell you, this one has a catch. Quibi is the first mobile only streaming service that will only offer short form video content. What this means is that the longest piece of content on this platform won’t exceed 10 minutes per episode, and is only meant for mobile viewing.
Hailed as a disruptor to streaming television, Quibi was able to raise an impressive amount of $1.75 billion in funding from major entertainment companies such as Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures, Warner Media and others. Jefferey Katzenberg defines his streaming service not as a competitor to long form streamers like Netflix and Amazon Prime, but to the idea of “free” content on short form apps such as YouTube and TikTok. The Quibi service, however, is not free to use. Its ad supported subscription will cost users $4.99 per month and $7.99 monthly for the version without ads.
As the shift to mobile increases, so does consumers’ preference for short form video content. In the US, the percentage of users watching short form video content grew to 74% in 2018! The same trend is reflected in Indian audiences - 96% of smartphone users in India watch online video. But what about the actual content? Well, it is aimed at people on the go, ages 18-34 who have spare time to watch bite sized snackable content on their phones. The company plans to launch 175 original series and 8500 episodes in the first year itself.
An interesting and noteworthy fact - none of the content on the platform will be owned by Quibi - it is licensed by them for seven years, at the end of which rights will revert back to owners. Additionally, Quibi is dabbling in both scripted and unscripted content - shows will cover different genres such as comedy, documentary, drama, action and even news.
As reported by Variety, Quibi has a production budget of upto $100,000 per minute for its originals and over the last few months, as it started gaining more traction and attracting the attention of the media industry, debates centred around the potential of this idea - would short form video content work and would people be willing to pay for it?
Whether or not the Quibi team sees it as such, this format also competes with traditional streaming services for time, attention and quality of content. While the format itself is in alignment with video trends we are seeing, the pricing factor still remains a major question - users who use many short form video platforms like TikTok do so because of the convenience factor, but also because they are free.
I can’t help but wonder - a part of the charm of long term content is that it allows us to be a part of an immersive experience, but if drama shows that demand this immersive experience are only 10 minutes per episode, will viewers still be able to achieve the same amount of satisfaction as they usually do from an hour long episode? While the spectrum of genres Quibi’s content covers is broad enough to accomodate all interests, it still remains a question as to whether all of them will succeed in this particular format.
Which side of the argument are you taking? I would place my bets soon - next week’s launch and subsequent months are very critical for this disruptor and we shall know if all the hype was worth it!