Quibi, which means "short bites," is entering the streaming wars with just that--short form content that the company hopes will attract younger audiences who consume content during the in-between times like heading to school or work, taking a break between meetings, or waiting at a restaurant for a friend. And to that end, Quibi is different than other streaming services in a significant way: It will only be available on your phone.
To make it happen, the company has an impressive line up of both executives and talent. It's led by former HP and eBay CEO Meg Whitman, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Chairman of Walt Disney Studios and co-founder of DreamWorks SKG. And the list of talent that has signed on includes Steven Spielberg, Chrissy Teigan, Kevin Hart, and Bill Murray. Each of those will produce or star in short (four to 10-minute), high production-value content on a regular basis.
At CES, I spoke with Quibi's Chief Product Officer Tom Conrad and Chief Technology Officer Rob Post, who told me that the platform will launch on April 6, 2020 and roll out 175 shows, charging $4.99 for an ad-supported version, and $7.99 ad-free. They also walked me through a few of the platform's unique features.
One of the most interesting is called Turnstyle, which involves having both a traditional wide-format cut of each show, as well as a portrait orientation. This allows you to watch the shows in whatever orientation you prefer, holding your phone vertically or horizontally, as well as switching back and forth in real-time.
Unlike other streaming services, which either force you to watch in one format, or letterbox content when you hold your phone vertically, Quibi will provide an orientation-specific edit of whatever you're watching. It's hard to get across in words how unique and impressive this it, but seeing it in person it really is cool.
There's also no question that the content is high-production-value. Quibi plans to release three different types of shows, all of which will fit in the short-form length. These include:
- Movies Told in Chapters: These are what it sounds like--films told in short chapters. Quibi is creating more than 35 of these this year, which feature many of Hollywood's biggest names both in front of and behind the camera.
- Episodic, Unscripted and Docs: These are shows about food, fashion, travel, animals, cars, builds, music, sports, comedy, talk, variety, documentary, docu-series and more.
- Daily Essentials: The 25 Daily Essential shows will deliver the day's news and information in 5 to 6 minute quick bites, on everything from the weather, news, sports and even your horoscope.
Of course, the question is whether, even with the technology and top-notch content, will anyone care? Apple TV+ has content from some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and even had its flagship The Morning Show nominated for multiple Golden Globes. Yet it's still not clear whether anyone cares about it either.
Those in-between times that Quibi is targeting as the ideal window for its shows are usually filled with checking an Instagram or Snap feed, or maybe uploading a quick Facebook story. That puts Quibi less in competition with Netflix and Disney+, but with Twitter, Instagram and Snap, which are all free.
Still, you have to give Quibi credit for actually innovating in a space that has largely been more of the same, translated to a different platform. Turnstyle is really impressive, and clearly the company has some smart technology behind it. The question is whether people will pay $5 or $8 a month for yet another streaming service just to have something to watch during a short subway ride.