Look, there’s been a lot of talk about Quibi lately. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a streaming app with (almost exclusively) exclusive content. But the programs are divided into “QUIck BIte” 5-10 minute chapters. The founder said that this was to make it ideal for commuters to watch on the subway or bus. Currently, he blames coronavirus for its low numbers.
But see. Insisting HOW your viewers will consume your media is a great way to get off on the wrong foot.
90% of the US workforce commutes by car. More people walk to work than take the subway. And while it’s fine to be completely wrong about who your target audience is initially, it’s not great if you structured your entire platform’s capabilities around that niche.
Because they were so sure their viewers would be sitting on a bus somewhere, the shows couldn’t be streamed to TVs. In fact, it couldn’t even be shared among devices or households: one account, one stream.
I think you can see how terribly this is going.
One of the most important aspects of 2020 viewing is the social factor: you want to talk about shows, you want to meme about shows, you want to watch it with your friends and family. This turned out to be exceptionally true during a pandemic, but it’s not somehow limited to Ronaville. People want to share shows. Tiger King is the best possible example: memes and Zoom chats exposed everyone to the title, but social distancing gave people the time to waste watching it. Quibi could’ve easily benefitted from social exposure.
But Quibi said no thanks. They didn’t allow screenshots or sharing of any kind. It’s un-memeable. Of course, Quibi is (slowly) moving to change this position, but is it going to be too little, way too late?
And who cares, anyway? If you’re the only person in your household who can watch a Quibi program, what’s the point? I’m not going to lend my boyfriend my phone, even for five minute bursts to watch each chapter. I’m certainly not crowding up next to him to watch it on my iPhone freakin’ 7 screen (sorry, sweetheart.)
The subscription is $4.99 a month for ad-supported viewing, and it’s $7.99 a month to go ad-free. You can get a 14-day free trial right now. But here’s the really funny thing: a streamer could EASILY watch all of the content they’d reasonably want to see in 14 days. Quibi is working on making more content, but how on earth are they going to make a long catalogue of work if they’re already struggling?
And let’s talk about that programming, shall we?
Look, I haven’t seen much of it. I hear Most Dangerous Game is good. I hear everything else is… there. Some of the familiar titles they gambled with feel kinda dated. Punk’d? Reno911? Singled Out? So far, there’s nothing that feels worth $5 to me. I don’t think I need any of it. Because I’ve mostly only read professional reviews SINCE I can’t see fan reactions via memes. They gambled on “cool girls” Sophie Turner and Chrissy Teigen, but the reviews of their programs haven’t been stellar.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t get some things right. I can’t stress enough that I think there’s some raw genius here that was squashed under the heel overthinking. Most programming can be easily switched from landscape to portrait mode–and still look great. I think the idea of 5-10 minute chapters is GOOD (though I haven’t heard word on whether you can just… watch the full story as one continuous stream.) There seems to be programming that tells stories from outside perspectives. The format seems to offer lots of room for pretty famous people to make surprise appearances.
I’ve heard some people opine that there’s not really room for another streaming platform. I’d tend to disagree. However, unless they fix their issues, I think the net effect of Quibi will be to inspire other streaming platforms (with more flexible budgets) to innovate. Netflix already created interactive episodes (fun fact: hùlù translates to “interactive episode”, something they haven’t really ventured into.) I could see Netflix creating a few short chapter shows. And because Netflix lets you stream anywhere and pauses and lets you pick up later… I think that’s something Quibi should keep in mind.