A Bite-Sized Streaming Service for Millennials

Quibi will bring original programming in small chunks

Last week at CES, a new streaming service was announced. Quibi, which is short for “quick bites”, intends to make content for millennials, specifically to be viewed on mobile devices. The company vows to shake up the industry with original programming lasting less than 10 minutes. Its goal is to attract young viewers on the move, who have small amounts of free time. Quibi will charge a $5 monthly subscription fee with ads and $8 for an ad-free plan. It will launch on 6 April 2020.

Quibi plans to deliver an impressive catalogue in its first year, with content involving high-profile actors, directors and influencers. The programming content will be three-tiered: movies in chapters, episodic series and “daily essentials” such as news programmes. Each day, Quibi plans to deliver one episode of its movies told in chapters, plus five episodes of its episodic and unscripted series and 25 daily essentials, amounting to three hours of premium, original content per day.

Rather than trying to fit old models of content into a new platform (the smartphone), Quibi has re-engineered the production and the delivery process for video. It uses Turnstyle technology, which lets users switch between content in portrait and landscape modes. To achieve a seamless experience, Quibi shoots every scene with two cameras, capturing the content for both vertical and horizontal viewing. This is then digitally stitched together, allowing for almost flawless toggling back and forth. The new approach has also empowered creators with new abilities to bring audiences more deeply into the viewing experience.

Quibi has already inked a deal with T-Mobile US to bundle its streaming service from launch, a good win for the company as it seeks to raise its profile and gain early users to its fledgling service.

But although it’s an intriguing service, Quibi faces major and established deep-pocketed rivals looking to attract mobile users. They include Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, HBO and Netflix, all of which are well aware of the ongoing cord-cutting trend among younger users.

Given the list of competitors, it’s reasonable to question whether the crowded streaming industry needs such a newcomer. But there’s no doubt that Quibi boasts an impressive pedigree: its management team includes dozens of Silicon Valley and Hollywood veterans. And the company’s co-founder and CEO is Meg Whitman, well-known for being the former CEO of eBay as well as HP. Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was chairman of Walt Disney Studios and part of Dreamworks SKG, is the other founder.

This year at the Golden Globe Awards, the transformation in media consumption became clearer than ever, with most of the winning programmes having been produced by providers others than traditional broadcasters. As the awards ceremony rolled, the cooperation between Hollywood and Silicon Valley was in plain view.

As Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and now Apple spend billions to compete in the streaming business, Hollywood is increasingly mingling with Silicon Valley. We expect streaming to continue to reshape the entertainment industry.

Quibi is entering an evolving business with small chunks of content. It’s a brave move given the amount of free content available online. However, if the service is to succeed, it will need to transform people’s viewing habits once again.