A new streaming service, Quibi, just launched, and it’s positioned itself to be one of the unique entities in the streaming wars for two distinct reasons. For one, the service is concentrating on shows that are exclusively five to 10 minutes per episode, and secondly, the service is exclusive to smartphones and tablets. It’s a rather untested design for sure, although the service has invested $1 billion in content (and raised $1.75 billion) from huge Hollywood directors like Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro and Steven Spielberg. The service is marketing by saying its offering subscribers “bite-sized” entertainment that they can take in during the intervals of their day when they need to kill time.
Quibi has already gotten a fair amount of pundits, although a lot of this is due to timing. Many people are having their normal routines put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while streaming services are getting plenty of viewership right now, people aren’t exactly prone to trying out a service that can only be viewed on a small screen. Quibi CEO, Meg Whitman, says eventually they will allow people the option to screen Quibi shows from their phone to their television, but it’s seemly perplexing to consider why they didn’t have such a feature ready from the get-go. It provokes one to think about what audience Quibi is really aiming for.
Even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, it isn’t likely that older generations will take a liking towards Quibi. Face it, it isn’t uncommon at all for boomers and Gen-X-ers to say that they just can’t adapt to current technological trends, and such fast and diminutive content isn’t likely to appeal to them. Also, Quibi will almost certainly receive harsh criticism from those who value cinema as an art form, as they will see such a service as part of the medium’s decline. Several renowned filmmakers (such as David Lynch and Martin Scorsese) have expressed that they feel that their films should not be watched on such devices, and it’s a paranoia within the cinematic community that this may become the norm.
That said, though, Quibi might very well have the potential to appeal to millennials, as it is aligned with recent social media trends. Platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have proven popular because of their short-form video formats, which most users appreciate for being so easy to digest amidst the daily grind of life. Also, reports on Quibi’s interface have tended to be positive, as the app lets people view content through either landscape or portrait mode, which isn’t always available on the aforementioned apps.
The app has also rounded up a variety of different programming. It offers scripted drama (Survive), comedy (Memory Hole), news (The Report), and even a hidden camera-practical joke reality show (a reboot of Punk’d with Chance the Rapper filling in for Ashton Kutcher). Quibi also managed to round up a plethora of recognizable stars for their original programming, including Jennifer Lopez, Will Arnett, Kaitlin Olsen, Will Forte and Christoph Waltz. Giving the current climate of the world, TV bingers might find themselves exhausting binges and re-binges of Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at much quicker rates than they expected. Perhaps TV heads will want to give Quibi a try when they’re simply starving for new shows.
Since the app launched, the response has been both positive and negative. Predictably, many people have complained about it only having the capability to be viewed on an iPhone (some have even compared it to watching movies on iPods). Others have been satisfied with the extensive content that it’s already offering and have been impressed with its quality. That said, people have also been quick to point out the service has an interface that’s very similar to YouTube which is available for free. Will people really want to pay for something that isn’t dissimilar from it and also isn’t as ubiquitous? People can’t post comments on Quibi videos as they could on Youtube, and the service isn’t currently available outside of the United States.
Ultimately, these next few months will determine Quibi’s longevity. The service is offering all subscribers a 90-day free subscription, which is probably a smart move for having the service catch on. Over those three months, we’ll see if the public responds to the service’s singular approach, or if the populace feels it just isn’t what they’re looking for with their entertainment needs. Whatever the case, it will most likely catch-on with younger generations, as well as those that are more technologically-inclined.
It remains to be seen whether Quibi will catch on with older generations.