Quibi is a new short-form video service going straight for the next-gen jugular

Quibi – short for ‘quick bites’ offers short form video designed specifically for the smartphone format. The founders say they aren’t competing in the streaming worlds – they are in a whole different league

Quibi at CES 2020
Quibi announced details of the service this week at CES. Image: Quibi

Quibi at CES

Quibi is a new video streaming service that was officially announced this week at CES. The company is headed by CEO Meg Whitman, previous CEO of HP and eBay, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, former head of Walt Disney Studios and Dreamworks.

Even those names tell us a lot about the calibre of this new service!

The format of the service is something new. Quibi will offer over what they promise movie-quality entertainment: 175 original shows and 8,500 short episodes in their first year. The difference? Every video lasts under ten minutes and is optimised for viewing on a mobile phone.

Supported streaming

There are some big names behind Quibi. They have raised over $1 billion in financing. Investors include Disney, Fox and Alibaba.

Quibi content will be classed into three categories:

  • Movies split into chapters
  • Show episodes
  • Daily essentials

The movies will be shown in short instalments. These won’t be existing movies, but will be original entertainment created by directors such as Steven Spielberg.

Shows will be offered across a range of genres such as sports, documentaries and food. Daily Essentials is a news service, with a daily five-to six-minute rundown of the biggest stories and events.

A new entrant to the streaming wars?

Katzenberg says not. Prior to the announcement at CES, he said that the big names in streaming, such as Netflix and Disney+, are all competing for TV viewers. Quibi is not interested in that market, and are solely focused on mobile media.

The Quibi service will launch on 6th April 2020, and cost $4.99 per month with limited ads, or $7.99 per month for an ad-free version.

Whitman says:

“…today we are living through another revolution in entertainment, this time on our mobile phones. Innovations in mobile technology and network capability mean that we now have billions of users watching billions of hours of content everyday on their mobile phones.”

Quibi CES big stars
Quibi Chief Product Officer Tom Conrad (Right) speaks with “Wireless” director Zach Wechter (Center) and “Wireless” star Tye Sheridan (Left) at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Quibi

Partnerships

Quibi is gearing up to make a big name for themselves. As well as celebrity endorsements and original content, they are collaborating with Google Cloud.

President of Industry Product and Solutions confirmed this collaboration at CES. Google Cloud will provide streaming technology, and are working to optimise Pixel devices to optimise mobile video viewing.

Quibi turnstyle
Turnstyle is according to Quibi, an ‘engineering breakthrough’ in video streaming and user experience, allowing the viewer to move seamlessly between full screen portrait and full screen landscape at will. Photo: Quibi

The service will be bundled into T-Mobile subscriptions. T-Mobile hasn’t yet confirmed exactly when this will start, but this aligns with the free Netflix offer for customers subscribing to their family plan. How Netflix feels about it might be another story!

Quibi is designed for mobile use but is not restricted to smartphones. The app has a Turnstyle function, which allows it to flip between landscape and portrait to ensure optimal viewing on any size device.

It’s an interesting take on mobile content. The Turnstyle format, which is patent pending, offers an interactive experience for users. During filming, Quibi’s digestible content is shot simultaneously in both portrait and landscape. When watched, the phone can be rotated and the content will adjust in real time. It sounds so easy and something quite excitingly new.

quibi turnstyle format
Quibi’s unique Turnstyle format makes use of our ‘on-the-go’ life. Source: Quibi

Interactive content has been tried before but not on this scale. I mean, let’s not forget the Bandersnatch experience offered by Netflix. If not, let me help. It was a film that allowed you to choose the direction the story went. At pivotal points, a selection was offered. Choose wrong, you moved back; choose correctly, the story moved on. It was a novel idea but one that got muddled and often lost in translation depending on the platform you were watching it on.

Quibi’s method seems to offer a less forced way of engaging with its audience. Let’s not forget how we use our phones on the go. Think on your morning commute. Most of us transition between walking, hopping on a bus and popping onto a tube or metro while switching to both portrait and landscape as we go. This is the environment Whitman and Katzenberg want to target; perfectly shot that adapts.

The Quibi market

So how big of a market is there for the Quibi service?

It is estimated that 175 million people watch videos through their mobiles. 90% of consumers choose to watch videos on their smartphones.

Our prolific use of mobiles extends to retail, with mobile shoppers three times more likely to watch a product video than someone browsing on a desktop.

It seems that Quibi has the backing, the finances, and the audience. How this impacts the rest of the streaming world? We’ll just have to wait and see!

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