The idea behind Quibi was for it to be a place to watch short-form, Hollywood produced entertainment in those “in-between moments,” like commuting, waiting in a doctor’s office or during lunch hour.
But Monday, when the service from former Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and eBay CEO Meg Whitman launched, it’s in a different world than first envisioned.
Is a pandemic the right time for Quibi – which stands for Quick Bites?
“We thought a lot about this: Can we launch now?” Whitman says. Techwise, they have the staff to run it remotely, and productionwise, they have enough programming to last into the fall.
And since the mission is to entertain, the decision was made, why delay the launch? The one change was a new offering, for the time: a 90-day free trial. From there, the monthly subscription is $4.99 with ads, or $7.99 ad-free. You can see Quibi only on your phone, not on TVs via Roku, Amazon Prime or any other streaming players.
“People are at home, running their businesses, home-schooling their kids, but there’s always in-between time,” she adds. “Our original-use case was in-between moments. Except now, instead of waiting for the class to start, it’s waiting for the next Zoom call.”
Quibi is launching with some 50 programs, a collection of short-form series, news and reality and movies in chapters. No program will ever be longer than 10 minutes.
The challenge will be getting young viewers who are used to watch free videos on YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to agree to pay.
Top talent for Quibi shows includes Jennifer Lopez, Chrissy Tiegen and Chance the Rapper.
Lopez’s show “Thanks a Million,” features celebrities giving away $100,000 to needy folks; the 1990s MTV series “Singled Out” dating and “Punk’d,” with new hosts; and news shows from NBC, BBC, TMZ, Weather Channel, ESPN, E! and CBS. Basketball great LeBron James presents “I Promise,” a documentary about the Akron, Ohio, school system, and “Flipped” is a movie about reality TV house flippers gone amok, starring Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson.
Advertisers who have signed up for the launch include Progressive Insurance, Discover, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, AB InBev, Taco Bell, Pepsi, T-Mobile, Google and Walmart.
Joining the streaming war
Quibi is launching at a time when there is more online media available for viewing than ever before, with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access and other services competing for your entertainment dollar, plus YouTube, Facebook Watch and so much free content online.
Waiting in the wings are two more new subscription services. Peacock, from NBC Universal, arrives April 15, at first for Comcast TV subscribers. The service is free with ads or $4.99 ad-free. Programs include reruns of shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “30 Rock,” and early airings of the “Tonight Show” and “Late Night with Seth Myers.”
HBO Max, an offshoot of HBO from AT&T, is set for May at $15 monthly. It will include reruns of shows like “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory,” and originals.
Whitman says Quibi is different from the streaming pay services in that it was built from the group up to appeal to mobile users. Most streaming is watched on TV, she says.
Peter Csathy, who runs the CREATV Media consultancy, says Quibi has a good calling card in mobile first video, since Netflix and company “have not yet prioritized (nor plan to prioritize) mobile-first video in any meaningful way anytime soon.”
However, unlike the recent launch of Disney+, which had familiar names to sell the new service, with the likes of Marvel, Pixar and the Disney library, Quibi is starting at zero, Csathy notes.
“Quibi’s content is all original.,” he says. “That means that Quibi instead needs to build its audience one by one.”
Investors liked Katzenberg’s pitch: He raised $1.7 billion, and counts entertainment companies in the mix, including Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Viacom and AT&T.
But will viewers?
Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter: @jeffersongraham