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A Big Bite in Small Chunks | Quibi

It’s hardly breaking news that our attention spans are shrinking, yet there has never been more information to consume—and it’s getting ever-easier to consume it. A study by the market research company, eMarketer, concluded that since 2012, the time we spend watching clips on our phone has  exploded from six minutes to well over an hour. Such behaviour has in part inspired the creation of a revolutionary subscription-based streaming service called Quibi.

 

Due to be rolled out in the US and Canada in April 2020 (globally a little later), Quibi is a Netflix-like platform that proffers two- to four-hour series split into easily digestible eight- to ten-minute chunks, called ‘chapters’. Company founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg, compares the streaming structure to the short chapters of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code that allows readers to be feel satisfied even when unable to dedicate themselves to lengthy reading (or viewing) sessions. Katzenberg is one of the most trusted—and safest—names in the industry, having been a leading figure at Disney during the 1980s before co-founding Dreamworks, while the Quibi CEO—Katzenberg’s first appointment—is Meg Whitman who previously held the same rank at both HP and eBay.

 

What also sets Quibi apart from the competition is that its content is filmed to be viewed exclusively on a mobile device to the extent that the experience would, perversely, be diminished on a computer or TV screen. It’s a “third generation of film narrative” that, says Katzenberg, “you have to see to understand”. Whitman adds that it should be viewed as a complement to, rather than competitor of, the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

 

All genres are covered, including comedy, drama, documentary and reality, sitting somewhere between contemporary short-form content and traditional TV or film, with tantalising elements such as interactive capabilities (like Netflix’s Bandersnatch) and a horror series called After Dark that can only be watched at night (your mobile device will let the streaming service know of your time and location). The horror series is written and directed by none other than Steven Spielberg who shores up a roster of A-list talent that also includes the likes of Gullermo del Toro and Sami Raimi. Elba vs Block pits actor Idris Elba against rally driver Ken Block in a series of driving stunts. “I love challenges, I love speed and I’m a ‘wheel man’,” says Elba, “so let’s see how this plays out.”

 

Such signings have attracted the signatures of some big-time investors, reportedly to the tune of US$1 billion, and in June, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Quibi has raised US$100 million in ad revenue from the likes of Google and Pepsi Co. It was also recently announced that Quibi has struck a deal with NBC to broadcast a morning and nightly news bulletin aimed at Millennials and Gen Z’ers, with Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News, noting that the service’s target demographic are “as hungry for smart and trustworthy news as prior generations”.

 

Detractors have questioned why anyone would pay for a service when similar offerings are available from the likes of YouTube, but Katzenberg argues that audiences have form when it comes to paying for things they could otherwise get for nothing. “Six or seven years ago, all music was free and available,” he tells Vulture, before pointing out that there are now “187 million people who pay $10 a month for either Apple Music or Spotify”. Not because the music is any different or any better quality, but because of playlists and recommendations and sets of features that “actually make the consumption of music very, very easy for us”.

 

Besides, Quibi promises to be like nothing else. Time will tell whether or not audiences agree—and, more importantly, whether they think it’s a service worth shelling out for.

Quibi, Quick!

  • Quibi is short for ‘quick bites’.
  • Its HQ is the West Wing building in the trendy, legendary Hollywood Media District.
  • There will be two pricing tiers: the base US$4.99 one with 10-15-second ads; and an ad-free option for US$7.99. First time users will get a free trial period, possibly lasting two weeks.
  • Katzenberg has stated that there will be at least 25 pieces of content rolled out each day, complemented by bi-weekly higher-profile releases known as ‘lighthouse projects’.
  • Eight ‘super-premium’ movies will be launched in the first fortnight, with 26 original flicks to follow.
  • Each project will be divided in to short ‘chapters’ owned exclusively by Quibi for seven years. Content owners may stitch together full-length edits of their work, without breaks, that can be sold elsewhere after two years.
  • Quibi launches on 6 April 2020 in North America, ahead of a global rollout.

Confirmed Quibi Content

  • A look at some of the shows already scheduled to be streamed…
  • 50 States of Fear is a horror anthology inspired by the myths and urban legends of each American state.
  • Action Scene sees Kevin Hart play a fictionalised comedic version of himself as a rejected actor.
  • Charlemagne explores the life and times of the Medieval Roman emperor who united east and west Europe.
  • Crazy Talented sees patients in a mental institution convinced they have superhero powers.
  • Frat Boy Genius is a Social Network-inspired look at the rise of Evan Spiegel, founder of Snapchat.
  • The Last American Vampire is the story of a female FBI agent partnered with an ancient vampire, written by Terry Matalas of 12 Monkeys fame.
  • The Now is a black comedy about a suicidal man learning to seize the day.
  • Beauty is a Tyra Banks-led docu-series about how society judges what’s beautiful.
  • Fight Like a Girl pairs professional women wrestlers with trainees with personal issues.
  • Thanks a Million is hosted by Jennifer Lopez and sees her and nine others pass on US$100,000 to someone who influenced them early in their lives, with the deal being that they must then pay it forward by giving away $50,000, and
    so on.