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With the recent skyrocketed success of apps like Tik Tok that serve up extremely short video content, it seems like investors have been in a mad dash to jump on the bite-sized content bandwagon. “The shorter, the better” seems to be the calling card for those looking to reach a younger demographic. But is this truly a recipe for success, to cater to dwindling attention spans?
The people and corporate entities who backed Quibi certainly seem to think so. Even if the public interest hasn’t exactly kept up with projections and anticipation, there have been many unforeseeable events, of course, that has coincided with Quibi’s launch, some of which have fundamentally gone against Quibi’s entire business model.
I am talking, of course, about the COVID-19 pandemic. Quibi, as opposed to the traditional half-hour TV episodes and 2-hour movies, has chosen to exclusively traffic in short-form content; 10-minute TV shows, for instance. This easily digestible, quickly consumed model for content was heavily marketed as a way to stymie boredom while, say, to wait in line or to need to kill some quick time while you are out.
However, with the pandemic came social distancing orders and intensive quarantining. So, the last thing that people have wanted or needed is short-form content. The very moments of boredom that Quibi was created to address are, for the time being, the time coinciding with Quibi’s launch, nonexistent. With hours of solitude to kill, the last thing people have been interested in are 10-minute videos on a new premium streaming service that they are unfamiliar with.
Which may, at a glance, seem ironic when one considers how Tik Tok, another app that specializes in short-form content (even shorter form than Quibi, actually), has become an overnight staple of social media. Tik Tok, however, is participatory, which is one of the biggest reasons, I think, that people have gravitated towards it during this extended quarantine.
Tik Tok asks you to create something yourself; it is experiential and active. Quibi, on the other hand, is yet another passively consumed streaming service – people have seemed to be quite content with their Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime subscriptions with so many hours to fill. Then, of course, there is the social nature of Tik Tok – another component that Quibi is missing. Which, in my mind, is very shocking. To see Quibi neglecting its potential as a social media streaming service, especially when social media is king and short-form content is made for social media, is astonishing. Especially when you look at how much money went into Quibi (and from whom it came).
Quibi made such a big deal of its launch, gaining tons of celebrity endorsements and putting on one of the most extravagant launches from an unknown company that we have ever seen in the tech space. I am not willing to say quite yet that Quibi has failed, but it is clear that the initial numbers are nowhere near what was expected. It looks like even more money is going to continue to be invested in Quibi in the next year to come. But is Quibi worth investing your money in, in the form of a monthly subscription fee? Let’s take a look, shall we?
Quibi was founded by American film producer and media proprietor, Jeffrey Katzenberg in August of 2018. Current CEO Meg Whitman, however, took the helm shortly thereafter. In 2018, during its first round of funding, Quibi managed to raise a whopping $1 billion from 11 separate investors and major Hollywood film and TV studios, including The Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures, NBC Universal, Viacom CBS, Warner Media, Liberty Global, and Alibaba Group.
Quibi has since begun its international growth, announcing a partnership with the Canadian telecommunications company, BCE, which will allow its Bell Media division to produce Canadian news and sporting content as well. Bell Mobility is to be Quibi’s exclusive telecom marketing partnership.
Quibi officially launched in the United States and Canada on April 6, 2020. Within its first week, Quibi saw 1.7 million downloads of its app. One week after its release, however, Quibi fell out of the top 50 most downloaded iPhone apps in the US. By early May, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower, Quibi was ranked 125th on the App Store. In contrast with Quibi’s own numbers, Sensor Tower reports that Quibi was downloaded by 2.9 million users, while Quibi boasts 3.5 million.
Regardless of what number is more accurate, Quibi claims that it currently has 1.3 million active monthly users. Katzenberg himself has acknowledged that this level of performance was “not close to what we wanted,” going on to say, “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to the Coronavirus.” I suppose only time will tell, however, whether the pandemic truly is to blame for Quibi’s lackluster performance.
One thing is for sure: Quibi’s design is perfect for smartphones. It is intuitive, easy to use, fast, streamlined, and fun. I always appreciate it when a streaming app can, in some way, provide a novel or interesting way to peruse the content. This is precisely what Quibi has accomplished.
Instead of providing tiles or thumbnails of show episodes, for the main section of the app: For You, Quibi has opted for a very intuitive newsfeed-like swiping model – again, much like that of Tik Tok. Based on your preferences and your viewing habits, simply swipe up and down through titles. Find a series or special that you are interested in? Simply tap into it to begin playing. Alternately, tap on the text of the title to find a menu.
From here, choose from More Info and Episodes, Follow, Download, Share, Not Interested, or Play. Everything about this app is optimized for smartphones or tablets. The design is extremely fitting for the content.
Content and Features
Everyone knows about the kind of content that Quibi provides, as it is their fundamental defining characteristic. All content on Quibi is 10 minutes or less, which the service refers to as “quick bites.” As far as what you can expect, though, in terms of types of content, for the most part, Quibi shows are very pop-culture oriented. Shows like Chrissy’s Court (in which Chrissy Teigan spoofs shows like Judge Judy and the like), a reboot of Punk’d (this time starring Chance the Rapper), and Kirby Jenner (yet another perspective on the reality TV empire of the Jenner/Kardashian dynasty).
Additionally, Quibi also offers news segments by NBC, BBC, Vox, ESPN, Telemundo, TMZ, Entertainment Weekly, E-News, Rotten Tomatoes, and iHeart Radio (to name a few). My takeaway regarding content on Quibi is that it is very pop culture forward, no doubt, but there is a little bit of something here for everyone – assuming you don’t mind exclusively short-form content, “quick bite” content.
Quibi also offers HD quality streaming (with the ability to toggle quality), a “minimize data” feature, left-handed mode (which changes the orientation of the whole app to better suit lefties), a completely personalized curation of shows, and the ability to download content for offline watching.
Pricing and Plans
Quibi offers two subscription tiers. They also have a free trial period. At this point, however, it is only a 2-week trial. If you are interested in using Quibi today, though, you will have to register for one of the following payment plans:
I think these two tiers are self-explanatory. Is Quibi worth the money? Well, that depends on what you are hoping to get out of your streaming service of choice. $7.99, to me, seems a bit pricey for 10-minute episodes … but that’s just me – I like my shows to have more substance than that. However, with new shows nearly every day, if you don’t mind the shorter content, you will certainly get your money’s worth.
Suggestions that I have for Quibi
I would like to see Quibi become more accessible on other devices. The fact that Quibi is not ChromeCast compatible is absurd to me. I understand that this service is primarily for smartphone viewing, but if I want to cast a 10-minute Quibi episode to my Smart TV, I should be able to do so with ease.
I also think that Quibi should consider adding some syndicated television content (even if that content is longer than 10 minutes). I think that it can still be Quibi’s ‘thing,’ so to speak, to offer short-form content, but that doesn’t mean that they have to neglect the whole of TV that has come before it, right?
Lastly, Quibi definitely needs to embrace some form of social media features if it wishes to survive.